Difference between Columbus Day and Thanksgiving

America has a rich history and many days are observed there which have their own historical, cultural, or national relevance.

Unlike other countries, most of the holidays in the US are celebrated on days, which are combined with weekends as it becomes convenient, rather than celebrating in the middle of the week.

Two of such days are Columbus day and Thanksgiving day, which are federal holidays in the states.

Columbus Day, which is celebrated to mark the historical event of 12th October 1492.

Thanksgiving on the other hand is one of the major celebrations, which besides having its cultural importance is also regarded as the beginning of the fall-winter holiday season.

For a lot of people who are inclined toward social justice, both these days present a dilemma that how they can celebrate a day that has a bad history to it, and how they can honor the experience of Native Americans.

Columbus Day vs Thanksgiving

The main difference between Columbus Day and Thanksgiving is that Columbus Day commemorates October 12, 1492, which is an event with historical relevance in America. Thanksgiving, on the other hand, is a cultural holiday. These two days have shared some sad experiences related to what happened to the local Communists. That is why some people, both in America and Canada have tried to acknowledge this by these holidays.

Columbus Day vs Thanksgiving

Columbus Day in America recalls the entrance of Christopher Columbus on October 12, 1492 and that is why it is a holiday there. He was an Italian native, hence why Italian Americans have remembered his accomplishment until this day.

However, it was not until 1937 that it was declared a national holiday by Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Thanksgiving is a very important and widely celebrated national holiday of the United States. It is a day to be thankful for the past year’s harvest and blessings.

Colonists in New England and Canada used to have frequent thanksgivings to commemorate days of prayer for gifts such as military victories, safe voyages, or bountiful harvests.

Comparison Table between Columbus Day and Thanksgiving

Observed ByAmerica, Italy, and SpainCanada, Grenada, Liberia, Saint Lucia and the United States
SignificanceCelebration to honor Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the America in 1492 Day to thanks for the harvest and blessings of the preceding year
Date on which observedSecond Monday in October (United States); First Monday in November (Italy)Second Monday in October (Canada) First Thursday in November (Liberia) Fourth Thursday in November (U.S. and Brazil)  

Controversy involved/ CriticismColumbus’s and other Europeans’ actions against the indigenous populations of the AmericaGenocide and conquest of Native Americans by colonists

What is Columbus day?

The second Monday of October in the United States is observed as Columbus day. The States have made it a federal holiday for the people there.

Reason behind the observance of this day is that Christopher Columbus discovered America on this day. In history, October 12, 1492 was the date of Christopher’s arrival in America.

This day involves parades, ceremonies, and celebrations for those who celebrate the occasion. Some people also celebrate Italian-American heritage on this day.

This day is also used to talk about what happened after Columbus arrived- the European colonization of America and how it negatively affected the indigenous inhabitants.

In some Latin American countries, October 12 focuses on the indigenous people rather than Columbus’s arrival.

Columbus Day is not associated with any special meals. But Italian-Americans who are largely the people celebrating this day, try not to look at its darker side and enjoy it through parades and street festivals.

What Is Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving is an annual holiday, which is celebrated with great enthusiasm, both in the United States and Canada. It is a celebration to be grateful for preceding year’s blessings and harvest.

The English colonists of Plymouth and Wampanoag folks celebrated a harvest feast in 1621, which Americans think inspired their Thanksgiving.

This American celebration is steeped with folklore and symbolism. The customary Thanksgiving feast consists of turkey, cranberries, bread stuffing, and pumpkin pie.

This day, which is observed on the fourth Thursday in the month of November, was made a national holiday in 1863.

Presently, Thanksgiving weekend has become one of the busiest travel periods as it is the time when families and friends gather for large meals, dinners, and vacations.

Thanksgiving is also celebrated in Canada with great enthusiasm and that is why it is a national holiday there too. This celebration shares its date with that of the Columbus day in America, that is the second Monday of the month of October.

It is interesting to know that according to history the starting of thanksgiving in Canada was because of the safe voyage journey led by Martin Frobisher and was to celebrate that.

It is interesting to note that Canada is one of the very few countries in Western hemisphere that do not follow Columbus day, in spite of having a good legacy of him.

Main Differences Between Columbus Day And Thanksgiving

  1. Columbus Day is observed by various countries in America, Italy, and Spain. On the other hand, Thanksgiving is observed by countries like Canada, Grenada, and the United States, etc.
  2. The significance of Columbus Day is that it celebrates Christopher Columbus’s arrival in America while Thanksgiving is a day set aside to express gratitude for the previous year’s harvest as well as other blessings.
  3. Columbus Day, which is now celebrated on the second Monday of the month of October in the United States, was originally observed on October 12, 1492. Thanksgiving is also observed on the second Monday of October but in Canada. However, now it is observed on the fourth Thursday of November in the United States.
  4. Columbus Day has a historical aspect to it but Thanksgiving is a cultural celebration.
  5. Columbus Day is criticized by some people as Columbus is considered a colonizer whose arrival led to the death and loss of life of indigenous people. Thanksgiving is also criticized; it is not only offensive to indigenous people but also glorifies colonialism, slavery, and epidemics.
Difference between Columbus Day and Thanksgiving


While both Columbus Day and Thanksgiving have a lot of differences, both have a similarity that some people in America don’t see these days as something to celebrate.

Instead, these days are highly criticized and are observed to mark the hardships of indigenous people after the colonization of America.

That is why people in the USA observe Indigenous Peoples’ Day in place of or along Columbus Day. States have declared it a holiday in order to give respect to American Natives who faced brutal exploitation following Christopher’s arrival.

Owing to similar reasons as of Columbus Day, the American Indians of England don’t really observe Thanksgiving. “National Day of Mourning” is the name given to this day by such people.


  1. https://go.gale.com/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA58545569&sid=googleScholar&v=2.1&it=r&linkaccess=abs&issn=02613131&p=AONE&sw=w&userGroupName=tacoma_comm
  2. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/357293
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