October 8, 2015

Working on Columbus Day? It depends on where you live


Fewer than half of U.S. states give their employees Columbus Day as a paid holiday.

Depending on where you live and whom you work for, Columbus Day may be a paid day off or no different from any regular Monday.

Columbus Day is one of the most inconsistently celebrated U.S. holidays. It’s one of 10 official federal holidays, which means federal workers get the day off. And because federal offices will be closed, so will banks and the bond markets that trade in U.S. government debt (though the stock markets will remain open).


Beyond that, it’s a grab bag. According to the Council of State Governments’ comprehensive “Book of the States,” only 23 states (plus the District of Columbia, American Samoa and Puerto Rico) give their workers Columbus Day as a paid holiday. Tennessee officially does so too, but curiously chooses to celebrate the occasion on a different day – the Friday after Thanksgiving.

Since 1990, South Dakota has marked the second Monday in October as Native Americans Day, an official state holiday. In Hawaii, the second Monday in October is known as Discoverers’ Day, though it’s not an official state holiday. The U.S. Virgin Islands “observes” Columbus Day but emphasizes Virgin Islands-Puerto Rico Friendship Day – which falls on the same day. The Northern Marianas substituted Commonwealth Cultural Day for Columbus Day in 2006. And in Nevada and Iowa, statutes “encourage” the governor to issue an annual Columbus Day proclamation but do not designate it a legal holiday.

Nearly 100 years ago, Colorado became the first state to designate Columbus Day as a state holiday, largely due to the efforts of Angelo Noce, a first-generation Italian immigrant in Denver. The day spread, in large part as a celebration of Italian-American heritage; it became a federal holiday in 1937. It was moved from Oct. 12 to the second Monday in October starting in 1971.

But in recent years, Native American groups and other critics, citing Columbus’ own mistreatment of natives and the legacy of European settlement that his voyages initiated – have advocated changing the holiday to something else – perhaps “Exploration Day.” Minneapolis and Seattle, among other localities, celebrate Indigenous People’s Day instead.

Note: This is an update to a post originally published Oct. 14, 2013. 

Category: Daily Number

Topics: State and Local Government

  1. Photo of Drew DeSilver

    is a senior writer at Pew Research Center.

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  1. Bob12 months ago

    Why do the “politically correct” enjoy taking away the rights of others? In other words PC is an excuse to enforce selfishness.

    1. Robert4 months ago

      The PC take the rights of others the same way Columbus took the land from the native peoples…..

  2. Tom Kenny2 years ago

    I have the day off as a National Holiday, but it is without pay. If my employer wants me to work on a much needed holiday, they must pay double time. I enjoyed the day, after sleeping in, with a beautiful fall walk in an Audubon Sanctuary with my wife and then a relaxing dinner.
    Holidays are too often looked at as a lost day of production or pay from ones job. Instead they should be appreciated and preserved as a respite from our daily toils of work and an opportunity to connect with our families, friends or just a day to decompress.

  3. jvo2 years ago

    no legend for map….

    1. HMS2 years ago

      The blue states are the states that have Columbus day off.