Happy Columbus Day!

Christopher Columbus is often seen as a pioneering explorer of the New World, but the national holiday was created in 1934 as part of an effort to celebrate Italian-American heritage. (Although, hate to break it to you, but Columbus really wasn't "Italian.")

A lot has changed. Today, Columbus is falling out of favor as someone who should be celebrated. In New York City (whose mayor is Italian-American), police have had to stand guard at the famous statue in Columbus Circle to ward off vandals dead set on plastering the Columbus monument in red paint.

What hasn't changed is that the Garden State remains home to many Italian-Americans.

New Jersey has more than 1.45 million residents of Italian ancestry, according to U.S. Census data.

If you live in Toms River or Fairfied in Essex County, chances are you might be or know an Italian-American.

Toms River has the most Italian-Americans of any town in the state — more than 29,000, or nearly a third of the population. And Fairfield's 3,900 Italian-Americans make up more than half of the township.

Below is a list of the 22 municipalities with more than 10,000 residents of Italian ancestry. Below that is a list of the 10 towns with the highest percentage of Italian-Americans, as well as a map showing where people of Italian descent live in New Jersey.

The figures are 2015 estimates by the American Community Survey.

Greatest total of Italian-Americans

Toms River
Population: 91,239 / Italian-Americans: 29,778

Brick
Population: 75,072 / Italian-Americans: 23,782

Middletown
Population: 66,522 / Italian-Americans: 22,145

Hamilton - Mercer
Population: 88,464 / Italian-Americans: 20,559

Jackson
Population: 54,856 / Italian-Americans: 17,202

Washington Twp - Gloucester
Population: 48,559 / Italian-Americans: 17,138

Gloucester Twp
Population: 64,634 / Italian-Americans: 17,004

Howell
Population: 51,075 / Italian-Americans: 14,960

Wayne
Population: 54,717 / Italian-Americans: 14,810

Old Bridge
Population: 65,375 / Italian-Americans: 14,203

Woodbridge
Population: 99,585 / Italian-Americans: 13,503

Jersey City
Population: 24,7597 / Italian-Americans: 12,840

Berkeley
Population: 41,255 / Italian-Americans: 12,802

Vineland
Population: 60,724 / Italian-Americans: 12,404

Manalapan
Population: 38,872 / Italian-Americans: 12,390

Hoboken
Population: 50,005 / Italian-Americans: 12,214

Manchester
Population: 43,070 / Italian-Americans: 11,414

Evesham Twp
Population: 45,538 / Italian-Americans: 10,801

Freehold
Population: 36,184 / Italian-Americans: 10,453

Bayonne
Population: 63,024 / Italian-Americans: 10,183

Nutley
Population: 28,370 / Italian-Americans: 10,159

Monroe Twp – Gloucester
Population: 36,129 / Italian-Americans: 10,013

Greatest percentage of Italian-Americans

Fairfield Twp - Essex
Population: 7466 / Italian-Americans: 3942 — 52.8%

Wood-Ridge
Population: 7626 / Italian-Americans: 3520 — 46.2%

Ocean Gate
Population: 2011 / Italian-Americans: 880 — 43.8%

Lavallette
Population: 1875 / Italian-Americans: 821 — 43.8%

Hammonton
Population: 14791 / Italian-Americans: 6425 — 43.4%

Newfield
Population: 1553 / Italian-Americans: 655 — 42.2%

Cedar Grove
Population: 12411 / Italian-Americans: 5040 — 40.6%

East Hanover
Population: 11157 / Italian-Americans: 4526 — 40.6%

Emerson
Population: 7401 / Italian-Americans: 2828 — 38.2%

Italians in New Jersey

Click on a town to see population information. Darker red means a greater percentage of the population is of Italian descent. The numbers are 2015 estimates from the U.S. Census' American Community Survey.

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