Updated: February 14, 2023Published: December 16, 2022
On this particular occasion, Spanish citizens remember the country’s millenary history of spreading their culture worldwide with the National Day of Spain —which also has many other names!
In this article, I’ll explain everything about the Spanish National Day, its history, why it relates to the events of October 12, and how the Spanish country observes and commemorates this holiday in different cities and regions.
Every year the streets are filled with processions, military parades, and many other events that I will show you later. But why does all this happen? Don’t worry. I’m going to explain it all and easily.
After reading this post, you will understand the vital meaning of this Day in Spain and why the date is so transcendental that they have decided to declare it a National Holiday. Stay tuned!
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When is the Spanish National Day Celebrated?
The Spanish National Day is celebrated on October 12 to symbolize the historical event of the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus.
Why is the Spanish National Day on October 12?
The Spanish National Day is on October 12, when Christopher Columbus discovered America in 1492. This event is considered to be transcendental. Therefore, October 12 has been a memorable day to commemorate the union of Europe and America, culminating in the so-called “encounter of two worlds,” which transformed the worldviews and lives since the European colonization of America was born.
But, as surprising as it sounds, America’s existence was not revealed on this Day. Columbus always believed that he had reached the Indies without suspecting that he had arrived on the American continent instead. He disembarked with these men on the island of Guanani, the current territory of the Dominican Republic.
But, the colonization was immense since many other trips financed by the Spanish Crown were organized after Columbus. For example, Núñez de Balboa crossed the Isthmus of Panama on foot and found the Pacific Ocean. Juan de Grijalva traveled along the Mexican coasts, and many others traveled and discovered many lands. But it wasn’t until Amerigo Vespucci traveled along the northern coast of South America, the coasts of Brazil, and southern Patagonia, and realized this was a whole new continent. He was the first European to understand and announce that. After it, the cartographer Martin Waldseemüller named the land America in 1507, and that map has been used ever since.
In 1892 this Day was already called “Día de la Hispanidad” since the Queen Regent Maria Christina of Austria commemorated the centenary of the discovery of America. But it was until five years later, in 1918**, Alfonso XIII appeared and instituted Hispanic Day as a national holiday in Spain.** This holiday had to be celebrated under any circumstances and included the Civil War. Later, the holiday was not legally regulated until 1958, when a decree of the Presidency of the Government finally established it.
The Day continued to be celebrated until 1982, when the Official State Gazette (BOE) published a royal decree which had the goal of ratifying the meaning of the celebration. This document proclaimed that “October 12, Spain’s national holiday and Columbus Day, will be permanently considered a national working holiday”.
How is the Spanish National Day Celebrated?
The celebration of Spanish National Day traditionally includes a military parade attended by the King, the Spanish Royal Family, the President of the Government, and other high representatives of all the powers of the State, including those of the autonomous regions. If you want to get more information about these topics, read these articles:
The “Dia de la Hispanidad” was celebrated for the first time in Madrid in 1935. Last year, the streets of Madrid once again experienced the traditional parade of the state security forces. Look, here is a demonstrationof how the Spanish National Day was celebrated in 2022:
You may wonder why the Armed Forces parade during this celebration. Well, the answer lies in a Royal Decree of 1997 that regulated by law the military parade. It states the importance of enhancing as much as possible the Spanish National Day and seeking the integration of the historical and cultural elements that make up the Spanish nation. Therefore, the essential acts on Armed Forces Day were modified to October 12.
Every year, the Day begins with the arrival of the Royal Guard Honors Battalion at the Plaza de Lima, the only battalion the King will review after greeting the authorities. After that, the jump of two members of the Air Force Acrobatic Parachuting Patrol starts the parade.
Then, someone acts as a guide for the soldier who will carry the national ensign of 54 square meters and 15 kilos weight that will later be hoisted on the mast. Next, Don Felipe will preside over the tribute to those who gave their lives for Spain. The march will be followed by the air parade, which will begin with four aircraft of the 12th and 24th wings and will be closed by the seven E.25 of the Eagle Patrol, whose smoke will dye the sky of Madrid red and yellow.
Is Spanish National Day the Same as Hispanic Day?
As we have mentioned before, the Spanish National Day is the same as Hispanic Day since both commemorate the encounter of the two worlds: Europe and America after Columbus’s trip in 1492.
Of the many curiosities to keep in mind while celebrating this Day is that the festivity of October 12 coincides with the celebration in honor of the Virgen del Pilar, patron saint of Zaragoza and Spain. Besides being Patroness of the Benemérita and Patroness of the Hispanidad.
Is Spanish National Day the Same as Constitution Day?
The Spanish National Day on October 12 is different from the Constitution Day on December 6. Both dates should not be mistaken since one commemorated Columbus’s arrival to America and the other celebrated the achievement of a Spanish Constitution. Learn everything about this National Holiday in this article:
Nevertheless, both celebrations are part of one of the seven days that are not replaceable in the work calendar. Which are:
Is Spanish National Day the Same as Independence Day?
The Spanish National Day is not the same as the Day of the Independence of Spain. Spanish Independence Day is celebrated every May 2 in Madrid. It is also considered the Day of the Community of Madrid.
Find out everything about this celebration in the following article:
One of the most striking curiosities of Spanish National Day is that it is popularly called Columbus Day, as well as in other Latin American countries. It was later established that October 12 is celebrated as the National Day of Spain, with the 18/1987 law of October 7, without mentioning Hispanidad. However, a previous Royal Decree from 1981 already provided the rules for the celebration, and it included both denominations: Spain’s National Holiday and Day of the Hispanidad.
Moreover, it has been called “Columbus Day” since 1971 in the United States. It is a national holiday commemorated on the second Monday of October. It is also customary to celebrate Italian and Italian-American heritage on this date since Christopher Columbus was originally from Genoa, Italy.
The “Día de la Hispanidad” is known in almost all Latin America as the “day of the race.” It is a holiday in the calendar, but it is losing relevance in these Latin countries since the Discovery of America has a negative and controversial meaning. For this reason, October 12 in many Latin American countries has been renamed “indigenous resistance day.” I hope you learned everything about this memorable holiday and why it is commemorated in Spain.
Jimena Bolívar is a seasoned travel writer with a unique passion for Spanish Food & Recipes. With a background in business and marketing, she brings a strategic and innovative approach to her writing, making her the perfect guide for those looking to truly experience the Authentic Spain. Jimena is also a Mother of 4, and is a huge fan of knitting her own clothes.