​October is National Italian Heritage Month in the U.S. This is a fantastic celebration of all that is Italian and an opportunity for people of Italian ancestry to take pride in their culture and celebrate both Italian achievements and the lives that Italians have built in America. Here is a little about the history of National Italian Heritage Month and how American Italians celebrate their heritage in America today.

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What is National Italian Heritage Month?

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This is an annual celebration for people of Italian heritage. It is an opportunity for them to celebrate the contribution they have made to America and the influence they have had on American history and culture. Although many Italian Americans will celebrate their heritage in a variety of ways throughout the year, such as at religious festivals or commemorative days, the National Italian Heritage Month is the official recognition of their heritage and is when most events are planned across the U.S.

Brief History of Italian National Heritage Month

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Italian Heritage Month has been celebrated in America since 1999 and is designated by Presidential Proclamation. Each year, the U.S. president signs an executive order that designates October as National Italian Heritage Month. This month is chosen to coincide with Columbus Day in October and the festivities associated with this occasion.​
Christopher Columbus was an Italian man who made the first voyage to America in 1492. It was a result of this voyage that people from all over Europe began to immigrate to the Americas to start a new life. 1820 saw the first surge of Italian immigrants and between this year and 1992, more than five million Italians chose to make the move to America.

In spite of National Heritage Italian Heritage Month only being recognized since 1999, the Italian Heritage and Cultural Committee of New York have actually been celebrating National Heritage for over 30 years. Each year, the committee chooses an Italian theme and then arranges an array of events. These include exhibitions, performances, lectures, and concerts.


Italians in America Today

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It is estimated that there are now over 17 million people with Italian ancestry living in America. They account for 5.4 percent of the U.S. population and are the fourth largest European ethnic group in this country. Approximately 84 percent of Italian Americans have origins in southern Italy and Sicily. Modern Italian American culture is influenced by both Italian and American traditions, lifestyle, and history.

​As Italian-Americans constitute such a significant proportion of the U.S. population, it is no wonder that an entire month is devoted to celebrating their heritage and the contribution they have made to American history and society.


Ways of Celebrating Italian Heritage

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There are many ways of celebrating National Italian Heritage Month; either as individuals, a family or by taking part in one of the many planned events across America. Each state and city have theirown calendar of events to celebrate National Italian Heritage Month.

For example, San Francisco holds a Columbus Day/ Italian Heritage parade and this is the oldest parade of its kind in the U.S. On the other hand, the focus of celebrations in Los Angeles is food. Their Taste of Italy event is a cultural gastronomic celebration of traditional and modern Italian cuisine and boasts food from some of the top Italian restaurants in the area. Boston has a whole range of events that take place throughout the month celebrating different aspects of Italian culture.

If you want to celebrate the occasion but do not live near one of the planned events or you prefer to organize your own celebrations, then there is nothing to stop you from celebrating in your own way. Just a few ideas include holding an Italian film night, an Italian dinner party, or invite friends around for a night of Italian music.
Families can also take the opportunity to use National Italian Heritage Month to educate their children about Italian heritage. The local library and the Internet are two of the best resources to help your child find out about Italians who have made a significant contribution to fields such as architecture, art, science, and engineering. Arts and crafts activities can make this learning more fun.

National Italian Heritage Month is an annual event held throughout October that allows the estimated 17 million Italian-Americans to celebrate their heritage. The events that take place across the U.S. are fantastic to get involved with, regardless of whether you have Italian heritage or not.

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