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.


  1. Rodney2 years ago

    The people who support Columbus day,, are people who support and lie that the majority is with, no matter how ridiculous the lie. Here is a few 1God has a son, 2 the big Santa clause lie, 3 the Easter bunny lie. 4 ground hog lie. How about selling them the Brooklyn bridge lie

  2. juan2 years ago

    Cristobal Colombo’s was the first in a 3-century-long Spanish/Spanish sponsored campaign against Native Americans (North, Central, and South). What kinds campaign? Read some history.

  3. Jon Cleland Host2 years ago

    I can’t believe that this is even a discussion. Historians agree that Columbus, not finding a lot of gold, instead kidnapped hundreds of Native Americans to bring back to Europe and sell as slaves, and then oversaw and directed the mass enslavement and slaughter of the Native Americans where he had landed. From an initial population of over 250,000 Natives on that island, only about 100,000 remained free & alive after a few years. Columbus also gave Native women as sex slaves to his officers, and profited from selling Native Americans as sex slaves, saying that “those aged 9 or 10 are now in demand”. Natives who failed to bring him enough gold had their hands cut off, and forced to be worn around their necks until they bled to death. His actions are many of the same things that ISIL does today. Yes, we have a holiday for ISIL actions, here in America. Heinous. How can articles like this one fail to mention the basic historical facts? Oh yeah, I forgot about white privilege! It would scare white fragility to mention the truth, and that’s more important to some than accuracy. For those who see this as “taking away rights”, you are yet another reminder that for those accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.

    1. Randy2 years ago

      Cool story brah.

    2. Gigi2 years ago

      Thank you Jon Cleland Host, for reminding me do research and read more… I think some of us just don’t know or just don’t care! Thank you’ve definitely reminded me to read more, because I do care!

  4. Ryan2 years ago

    For those opposed, where are your representatives’ bills in Congress rolling back the holiday? I bet they are in their home office right now so perhaps you can give them a call if you are not busy at work.

  5. Maria2 years ago

    I don’t see anything wrong with any sort of day recognizing indigenous people, but to change the meaning ofColumbus Day is not the way to do it. Columbus Day is a time for Italian Americans to celebrate a person who came from Italy and was an explorer who came to America. This is an event that occurred almost 600 years ago. We truly have no reliable knowledge that Columbus was a thug, pilfered, or did anything else other than sail ships to come to America for Spain.

    1. Karl2 years ago

      We actually have his letters written to the Queen and Britain where he explicitly agrees to slavery and to ship as many enslaved natives from any heathen lands as desired by his superiors. He didn’t entirely like the situation, but he decided his duty to do as his Queen and royalty desired outweighed the slaves’ right to freedom. He openly participated, encouraged, and helped put in place the triangular slave trade between NA, Europe and Africa. We have entirely reliable knowledge and evidence of this. For that reason alone, I disagree with celebrating Columbus Day, especially since he wasn’t the first man to sail to NA in the first place. Celebrate the later discovery by Europeans, sure, but Columbus shouldn’t be celebrated.


  6. Bob3 years ago

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

    1. Robert2 years ago

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

    2. Craig2 years ago

      And what Rights are being taken away? A paid or non paid day off isn’t a Right. No one is asking that the day be dropped but,only to have it’s name changed to something a little more acceptible them murdering,rapist,pilaging thug day.

  7. Tom Kenny4 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.

  8. jvo4 years ago

    no legend for map….

    1. HMS4 years ago

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