As the leaves start changing colors and the autumn air turns crisp, students and teachers alike start eyeing the calendar for upcoming holidays and time off from school. One such holiday on the radar is Columbus Day, which falls on the second Monday of October.

If you’re wondering whether your school district observes Columbus Day as a school holiday, read on for a comprehensive guide.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: Columbus Day is a federal holiday, but whether or not schools close varies by state, district, and even individual school. Some schools stay open and hold classes as usual on Columbus Day.

The History and Background of Columbus Day

Every year, on the second Monday of October, many people in the United States celebrate Columbus Day. But what is the history behind this holiday? Let’s take a closer look.

When and Why Columbus Day Started

Columbus Day was first celebrated in the United States in 1792, to commemorate the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Americas on October 12, 1492. It was initially established as a way to honor the achievements and contributions of Columbus to the exploration of the New World.

The holiday gained momentum and was recognized as a federal holiday in 1937, making it a day off for many Americans.

However, in recent years, there has been a growing debate about whether Columbus Day should continue to be celebrated. Critics argue that Columbus’s arrival led to the oppression and mistreatment of Indigenous peoples, as well as the start of European colonization.

As a result, some states and cities have chosen to rename the holiday as Indigenous Peoples’ Day, to shift the focus to honoring and acknowledging the cultures and contributions of Native Americans.


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Columbus Day’s Transition to Indigenous Peoples’ Day

The transition from Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day has been a gradual process. The first city to officially replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day was Berkeley, California, in 1992. South Dakota was the first state to recognize the day in 1989, and the cities of Berkeley and Santa Cruz, California, followed. 


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Since then, many other cities and states, including Los Angeles, Seattle, and Vermont, have followed suit.

The movement to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day aims to raise awareness about the history and experiences of Native Americans. It seeks to promote a more accurate and inclusive understanding of the impact of colonization, while also celebrating the rich and diverse cultures of Indigenous communities.

It’s important to note that the decision to celebrate Columbus Day or Indigenous Peoples’ Day varies across different regions and communities. Some places choose to observe both holidays, while others have opted for one over the other.

Ultimately, the transition from Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day reflects an ongoing dialogue and the desire for a more comprehensive and respectful recognition of history.

Is Columbus Day a Federal Holiday?

Yes, Columbus Day is indeed a federal holiday in the United States. This means that it is recognized and observed by the federal government, as well as by many state and local governments across the country.

Columbus Day is celebrated on the second Monday of October each year to commemorate the arrival of Christopher Columbus to the Americas in 1492.

What Federal Holidays Mean for Government Workers

As a federal holiday, Columbus Day holds special significance for government workers. Federal employees, including those who work for federal agencies, departments, and institutions, typically have the day off on Columbus Day.


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This allows them to enjoy a long weekend and spend time with their families or engage in recreational activities.

It’s important to note that not all government workers are guaranteed a day off on Columbus Day. Some essential services, such as emergency responders, may still be required to work on federal holidays to ensure the safety and well-being of the public.

Additionally, certain government agencies may have their own policies regarding holiday observance, so it’s always a good idea to check with your specific employer or organization to confirm their holiday schedule.

Post Office, Banks, and Stock Market Closures on Columbus Day

On Columbus Day, many public services and institutions are closed or have limited operations. This includes post offices, as well as most banks and financial institutions. If you need to send mail or visit your local bank branch, it’s a good idea to plan accordingly and take into account the closure of these services on Columbus Day.

The stock market is another important institution that usually observes Columbus Day as a holiday. This means that major stock exchanges, such as the New York Stock Exchange and NASDAQ, are closed for trading on this day.

Investors and traders should be aware of this closure and plan their activities accordingly.

Do Schools Close for Columbus Day?

When it comes to whether schools close for Columbus Day, the answer is not a straightforward one. Decisions regarding school closures on Columbus Day can vary by state, district, and even individual schools within a district.

While some schools do close their doors to observe the holiday, others choose to remain open and continue with their regular schedules.

Decisions Vary by State, District, and School

The decision to close schools for Columbus Day is typically made at the state or district level. Some states, such as Connecticut and Massachusetts, have designated Columbus Day as a state holiday, resulting in school closures statewide.

In these states, students get to enjoy a day off from school to commemorate Christopher Columbus and his historical significance.

However, in many other states, Columbus Day is not a recognized state holiday. In these cases, the decision to close schools is left to the individual districts or even the schools themselves. Factors such as the district’s calendar, local traditions, and the demographics of the student body can all influence the choice to close or remain open on Columbus Day.

It’s important to note that even in states where Columbus Day is recognized as a holiday, not all school districts may choose to close. In some districts, the holiday might be observed with special activities or lessons focused on the history and impact of Columbus, while still keeping schools open for regular instruction.

This allows students to learn about Columbus and his voyages in a meaningful way, even if they are not given the day off.

How to Check Your School’s Calendar

If you’re unsure whether your school will be closed for Columbus Day, the best way to find out is to check your school’s calendar. School calendars are typically available on the school district’s website or can be obtained from the school office.

The calendar will provide information on scheduled holidays and breaks throughout the school year, including whether Columbus Day is a day off or a regular instructional day.

Additionally, local news sources and school district social media accounts often provide updates on school closures and holidays. It’s always a good idea to stay informed and check for any announcements regarding Columbus Day and other potential school closures.

Indigenous Peoples’ Day Gains Popularity

Over the years, there has been a growing movement to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day. This shift in perspective seeks to honor and recognize the Native American communities who were already living in the Americas when Christopher Columbus arrived.

The movement has gained significant traction and support, with an increasing number of cities and states adopting Indigenous Peoples’ Day as an official holiday.

Criticism of Columbus Day

One of the driving forces behind the rise of Indigenous Peoples’ Day is the criticism and reevaluation of Christopher Columbus’ legacy. While Columbus is often celebrated for his exploration and discovery, there is a growing awareness of the harm and devastation caused to Native American communities as a result of European colonization.

Many argue that glorifying Columbus ignores the violence, genocide, and oppression that occurred during this time.

By shifting the focus to Indigenous Peoples’ Day, advocates aim to acknowledge the rich cultural heritage and contributions of Native Americans while promoting a more accurate and inclusive understanding of history.

Locations That Observe Indigenous Peoples’ Day

The movement to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day has gained momentum across the United States. Currently, several states, including Alaska, Hawaii, Maine, New Mexico, Oregon, South Dakota, and Vermont, have officially replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

In addition to states, numerous cities and municipalities have also made the switch. Some of the notable cities that observe Indigenous Peoples’ Day include Los Angeles, Seattle, Denver, Minneapolis, and Phoenix.

These cities have recognized the importance of honoring Native American communities and their contributions to society.

It is important to note that while some locations have officially observed Indigenous Peoples’ Day, others continue to recognize Columbus Day. This discrepancy has sparked ongoing discussions and debates about how history is remembered and celebrated.

Fun Facts About Columbus Day

Parades and Festivities

One of the most exciting aspects of Columbus Day is the lively parades and festivities that take place in various cities across the United States. These parades are often filled with colorful floats, marching bands, and enthusiastic participants dressed in traditional costumes.

Communities come together to celebrate the arrival of Christopher Columbus to the Americas and to honor the Italian heritage. It is a day filled with joy, music, and cultural pride. Some of the most famous Columbus Day parades can be witnessed in New York City, San Francisco, and Chicago.

Columbus Day Sales

In addition to the celebrations, Columbus Day is also known for the incredible sales and discounts offered by retailers. Many people take advantage of this long weekend to go shopping for various products, including clothing, electronics, and household items.

It has become a tradition for stores to offer special promotions and deals during this time, making it an ideal opportunity for bargain hunters. Whether you’re looking for a new outfit or hoping to snag a great deal on a gadget, Columbus Day sales can be a fantastic way to save some money.

However, in recent years, Columbus Day sales have seen a decline in popularity, with many retailers shifting their focus to the more prominent Black Friday sales. That said, some stores still offer significant discounts during the Columbus Day weekend, making it worthwhile for shoppers to keep an eye out for deals.

Did you know? The first official Columbus Day celebration in the United States took place in New York City in 1792. It was organized by the Society of St. Tammany, also known as the Columbian Order, to honor the 300th anniversary of Columbus’ arrival.


While Columbus Day’s status as a federal holiday means some workers get the day off, school closures vary depending on your location. The shifting attitudes around Columbus Day have also led some places to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day instead.

Check your school or district calendar to see if you get Columbus Day off – and if not, enjoy the partial day off for a long weekend!

Whether you have school or not, Columbus Day also means the start of great sales for holiday shopping. Enjoy the extra time off if you have it, and don’t forget to appreciate the stories and contributions of the indigenous people native to the Americas as well.

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