October 2021 in New York: Columbus Day

5:27 pm  |  21.09.2021

Columbus Day in New York is celebrated in October each year. It’s the memory of Christopher Columbus, the man who discovered America. Every year on Columbus Day in New York there is a large parade that takes place on Fifth Avenue.

The Story of Columbus Day

Christopher Columbus (1451-1506), born in Italy, was an explorer and navigator. Columbus was sure that there was a shorter route to India and the Catholic royal couple of Spain (Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand II of Aragon) supported him financially. Thus Columbus was able to sail west with three ships from Spain. Christopher Columbus saw America for the first time on October 12, 1492. When he got there, he thought he had landed in India and with its indigenous people, the Indians.

Columbus was commemorated for the first time in 1792 – exactly 300 years after he first set foot on American soil. Christopher Columbus was Italian and that is why the Italian-Americans see him as a hero and part of their culture. The Italian community in New York was instrumental in spreading Columbus Day. On October 12, 1866, this community organized a grand celebration to commemorate the discovery of America, establishing Columbus Day. Citizens erected a statue of Christopher Columbus on Columbus Avenue in 1892.

Día de la Hispanidad

Columbus conquered the world on behalf of the Spanish crown – with his discovery of America the great chapter of colonization began for Spain. It symbolizes how the Spanish language and culture expanded from Europe to America. Many Spaniards still call the day “Día de la Hispanidad”, meaning “Hispanic Day”. Officially it has been called “Fiesta Nacional de España” since 1987 and has been celebrated as a Spanish national holiday ever since.

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How to deal with the colonial legacy? That remains a challenge in many countries around the world – be it those that were sometimes brutally conquered, or those of the conquerors themselves in Europe. Statues, monuments, street signs – names everywhere are still reminiscent of conflicting figures in history. But there’s a popular question – not least by the affected minorities, the descendants of the once subjugated themselves.

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For many people, especially in Latin America, however, Columbus represents the beginning of a painful story. After all, with his conquest, the Spanish colonial era began on the American continent – from the point of view of the indigenous population, a dark chapter that stands above all for genocide and years of oppression. Columbus Day is and will therefore remain controversial. However, people still celebrate it – albeit under a different name in some places.

The Columbus Day Parade in NYC

So if you’re wondering what to do on Columbus Day in New York City, we definitely recommend checking out the official Columbus Day Parade. 

Every second Monday in October, the Columbus Citizens Foundation hosts the Columbus Day Parade. Shops and sights are open as normal on this day. The parade starts at 12:00 p.m. and ends at 3:00 p.m.

The Columbus Day Parade is a large parade with over 35,000 participants. Over 130 different groups insist on celebrating their hero Christopher Columbus with bands, balloons, disguised as Christopher Columbus himself, and many other bells and whistles. Almost 1 million viewers are expected annually.

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When does Columbus Day Take Place?

Columbus Day always takes place on the second Monday in October. It was around this time that Christopher Columbus first set foot on American soil. In 2021, Columbus Day falls on October 11th.

What to do on Columbus Day

Columbus Day in New York is an every-year holiday with a large parade: the Columbus Day Parade. 35,000 people including groups, bands, floats, and marines attend. The parade attracts around a million visitors each year and another million people watch the parade on television!

The parade begins on Fifth Avenue and 44th Street and moves north on Fifth Avenue to 72nd Street. Make sure you have a good standing on Fifth Avenue in good time! The parade starts at 11:30 a.m. and ends at 3 p.m.

What Can You Expect on Columbus Day?

Columbus Day is a public holiday. This means that schools and authorities don’t work. Expect Fifth Avenue to get really busy with the parade. If you plan to go shopping there, plan another day instead.

The route of the Columbus Day Parade is the same every year. If you also want to see the Columbus Day Parade in New York City, you should orientate yourself around the route along Fifth Avenue at 44th Street up to 72nd Street. 

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The nice thing is that no matter where you watch the parade, there is something to admire everywhere. Our personal tip is the live bands on 67th Street. There is always a really good atmosphere there.

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