By Nolan Feeney
October 7, 2015

Not all federal holidays are created equal. Next Monday, Oct. 12, is Columbus Day, and though it’s a federal holiday like Christmas or New Year’s Day, it’s rarely treated like one.

According to data from the Society for Human Resource Management last year, only six holidays are widely accepted as paid days off: Christmas, Independence Day, Labor Day, Memorial Day, New Year’s Day and Thanksgiving. So unless you fall into a few job categories—government offices and many banks are closed, the Postal Service doesn’t deliver mail—you probably have to show up to work on Monday.

As Money explained last year:

Columbus Day belongs in a category that might be considered second-tier holidays, in which a sizable portion of employees get the day off, but the majority of us are expected to work like normal. Of all these days, Columbus Day gets the least respect. Whereas slightly more than one third of organizations are closed on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and President’s Day, and 22% are shuttered on Veterans Day, only 14% are closed on Columbus Day. And the idea that Columbus Day should be a paid day off at all is on the wane: In 2011, for instance, SHRM data indicated that 16% of organizations were closed in honor of the holiday.

When did the holiday lose its luster and became, for most people, just another work day? In 2011, Slate tried to answer that question:

In the early 1990s. Congress planned a “Quincentennial Jubilee” in 1992 to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ Oct. 12 landing on the Bahamas. The festivities were to have sent a replica Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria sailing beneath the Golden Gate Bridge in a fatuous re-enactment of the Italian explorer’s “discovery of America,” but Native American leaders joined with liberals and environmentalists to protest the celebration. Corporate sponsors never materialized, and the voyage was canceled. The same year, Berkeley, Calif., renamed the holiday “Indigenous People’s Day” in recognition of the civilizations that were nearly wiped out in the centuries following Columbus’ arrival. In most other places, Columbus Day simply withered over the years, with the political controversy serving as cover for employers to deny workers a paid vacation day.

Perhaps the holiday’s lowest moment since 1992 came in 2009, at the height of the recession. That’s the year Baltimore and Philadelphia canceled their long-running Columbus Day parades and California dropped the holiday as a paid day off for government workers—citing budget woes, not ethical misgivings.

Read next: How Indigenous Peoples Day Came to Be


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