Juan Ponce de León, Spanish engraving, 17th century
When is Pascua Florida Day?
Pascua Florida Day is the state day of Florida and is celebrated on 2 April. If the 2 April falls on a weekend, the day may be observed on the Friday before or the Monday after.
History and meaning of Pascua Florida Day
This holiday commemorates the day when the Spanish explorer, Ponce de León first stepped ashore in Florida on 2 April 1513.
The place where he came ashore is known exactly, but is believed to have been somewhere between St. Augustine and the mouth of the St. Johns River.
He named the land he had found as Pascua Florida, which means 'Festival of flowers' in recognition of the verdant landscape he had discovered. It was also an appropriate name as it was Easter and Pascua Florida was often associated with the Easter season.
When Ponce de León arrived in Florida he assumed it was another island and he was almost certainly not the first European who had been there, as slave ships had been active in the region for about twenty years.
It is often said that Ponce de León discovered Florida while searching for the fabled fountain of youth, though this story was only attributed to him after his death. The riches that would come from discovering new lands for Spain would have probably been incentive enough to drive any exploration urges.
Juan Ponce de León died in Cuba in 1521. His body was later moved to the Cathedral in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico's third-largest city, Ponce, is named after the explorer.
How is Pascua Florida Day observed?
As it is a state holiday, state employees and bank employees may get the day off. Private sector employees may also get holiday pay if they work on the day as well.
The week leading up to Pascua Florida day is designated as Pascua Florida week and school children and adults are encouraged to get involved in activities celebrating the history of Florida.