The Immigrants’ Holiday – The American Interest Despite what Prof. Medina, Gov. Schumlin, and an increasing number of others imply, the animating spirit behind Columbus Day was not to celebrate the defeat, enslavement, and death of Native Americans. It was to celebrate the success of immigrants. Specifically, Columbus Day was the Italian-American holiday. In the early 20th century, it was for Italian-Americans what St. Patrick’s Day had been for Irish-Americans since the earlier 19th century and what Cinco de Mayo is for Mexican-Americans today: not just a community celebration, but a public display of pride and of newfound civic clout.