Leif Erikson Day

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Leif Erikson Day
Leif Erikson 6c 1968 issue.JPG
U.S. stamp issued on Leif Erikson Day, 1968
Observed by United States, Canada, Iceland, Minnesota, other places with Nordic communities
SignificanceCelebrating Leif Erikson as the first European to discover North America
Date October 9
Next timeOctober 9, 2020 (2020-10-09)
Related toLeif Erikson

Leif Erikson Day is an annual observance that occurs on October 9. [1] It honors Leif Erikson (Old Norse: Leifr Eiríksson, Icelandic : Leifur Eiríksson, Norwegian : Leiv Eiriksson), the Norse explorer who led the first Europeans thought to have set foot in continental North America (other than Greenland). [2]



The 1874 book America Not Discovered by Columbus by Norwegian-American Rasmus B. Anderson helped popularize the idea that Vikings were the first Europeans in the New World, an idea that was all but verified in 1960. [3] During his appearance at the Norse-American Centennial at the Minnesota State Fair in 1925, President Calvin Coolidge gave recognition to Leif Erikson as the discoverer of America due to research by Norwegian-American scholars such as Knut Gjerset and Ludvig Hektoen. [4] In 1929, Wisconsin became the first U.S. state to officially adopt Leif Erikson Day as a state holiday, [5] [6] thanks in large part to efforts by Rasmus Anderson. [7] In 1931, Minnesota did also. [8] Thanks to the efforts of the Leif Erikson Memorial Association of Saskatchewan, the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan proclaimed—through an order-in-council in 1936—that Leif Ericsson Day would be observed on October 9. [9] [10] By 1956, Leif Erikson Day had been made an official observance in seven states (Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, Illinois, Colorado, Washington, and California) and one Canadian province (Saskatchewan). [11]

In 1963, Senator Hubert Humphrey and Representative John Blatnik, both from Minnesota, introduced bills to observe Leif Erikson Day nationwide. [12] On September 2, 1964, Congress unanimously authorized and requested the President to create the observance through an annual proclamation. [13] [14] Lyndon B. Johnson did so that year, [15] as has each president in the years since, [16] [ better source needed ] often using the proclamation to praise the contributions of Americans of Nordic descent generally and the spirit of discovery. [17] [18]

Bills have been introduced in the Parliament of Canada to observe Leif Erikson Day. [19] [20]


October 9 is not associated with any particular event in Leif Erikson's life. [21] The date was chosen because the ship Restauration coming from Stavanger, Norway, arrived in New York Harbor on October 9, 1825, beginning a wave of immigration from Norway to America. [22]


The federal government of the United States observes the holiday and some U.S. states officially commemorate Leif Erikson Day. It is celebrated in many communities, particularly in the Upper Midwest and other places where large numbers of people from the Nordic countries settled. [23] It has long been observed in Seattle, Washington. [24] [25] In 2012, the day was made official in Las Vegas, Nevada. [26] Westby, Wisconsin and Norway, Michigan have held festivals near the day. [27] [28] [29] There have been Canadian commemorations, including in Edmonton, Alberta [30] and Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. [31] The day is also celebrated in Iceland. [32]

Related Research Articles

Vinland Area of coastal North America explored by Norse Vikings

Vinland, Vineland or Winland is the area of coastal North America explored by Norse Vikings, where Leif Erikson first landed around AD 1000, approximately five centuries prior to the voyages of Christopher Columbus and John Cabot. Vinland was the name given to North America as far as it was explored by the Norse in the Vinland Sagas, presumably including both Newfoundland and the Gulf of Saint Lawrence as far as northeastern New Brunswick. As many of the features and details of the sagas match present day knowledge of transatlantic travel and North America they are considered to be a reliable historical account. According to the historian Gisli Sigurdsson, 'The sagas are still our best proof that such voyages to the North American continent took place. Coincidence or wishful thinking simply cannot have produced descriptions of topography, natural resources and native lifestyles unknown to people in Europe that can be corroborated in North America.'

Erik the Red Norse explorer

Erik Thorvaldsson, known as Erik the Red, was a Norse explorer, described in medieval and Icelandic saga sources as having founded the first settlement in Greenland. He most likely earned the epithet "the Red" due to the color of his hair and beard. According to Icelandic sagas, he was born in the Jæren district of Rogaland, Norway, as the son of Thorvald Asvaldsson. Erik's own son was the well-known Icelandic explorer Leif Erikson.

Thorvald Ásvaldsson was the father of the colonizer of Greenland, Erik the Red, and grandfather of Leif Erikson, who visited North America centuries before Christopher Columbus. Thorvald's father was Ásvald Ulfsson, whose father was Ulf Oxen-Thorisson, whose father was Oxen-Thorir, brother of Naddodd, discoverer of Iceland.

Columbus Day Holiday in the Americas

Columbus Day is a national holiday in many countries of the Americas and elsewhere which officially celebrates the anniversary of Christopher Columbus's arrival in the Americas on October 12, 1492. Christopher Columbus was an Italian explorer and colonizer on behalf of Spain, who set sail across the Atlantic Ocean in search of a faster route to the Far East only to land at the New World. His first voyage to the New World on the Spanish ships Santa María, Niña, and La Pinta took approximately three months. Columbus and his crew's arrival to the New World initiated the Columbian Exchange which introduced the transfer of plants, animals, culture, human populations, and technology between the New World and the Old World.

Westby, Wisconsin City in Wisconsin, United States

Westby is a city in Vernon County, Wisconsin, United States. The population was 2,200 at the 2010 census. The name "Westby" is a Norwegian name and literally translates to "Western city".

Bjarni Herjólfsson was a Norse-Icelandic explorer who is believed to be the first known European discoverer of the mainland of the Americas, which he sighted in 986.

Leif Erikson 10th century Norse explorer

Leif Erikson, Leiv Eiriksson or Leif Ericson was a Norse explorer from Iceland. He is thought to be the first known European to have set foot on continental North America, approximately half a millennium before Christopher Columbus. According to the sagas of Icelanders, he established a Norse settlement at Vinland, which is usually interpreted as being coastal North America. There is ongoing speculation that the settlement made by Leif and his crew corresponds to the remains of a Norse settlement found in Newfoundland, Canada, called L'Anse aux Meadows and which was occupied c. 1000. Later archaeological evidence suggests that Vinland may have been the areas around the Gulf of St. Lawrence and that the L'Anse aux Meadows site was a ship repair station.

Freydís Eiríksdóttir was a Norse woman said to be the daughter of Erik the Red, who is associated with the Norse exploration of North America and the discovery of Vinland with his son Leif Erikson. The only medieval and primary sources that mention Freydís are the two Vinland sagas: the Greenland saga and the Saga of Erik the Red. The two sagas offer differing accounts, though Freydís is portrayed in both as a masculine, strong-willed woman who would defy the odds of her society.

Norse colonization of North America

The Norse colonization of North America began in the late 10th century CE when Norsemen explored and settled areas of the North Atlantic including the northeastern fringes of North America. Remains of Norse buildings were found at L'Anse aux Meadows near the northern tip of Newfoundland in 1960. This discovery aided the reignition of archaeological exploration for the Norse in the North Atlantic.

<i>Saga of Erik the Red</i> Icelandic saga about the Norse exploration of North America

Eiríks saga rauða or the Saga of Erik the Red is a saga on the Norse exploration of North-America. The original saga is thought to have been written in the 13th century. The saga is preserved in two manuscripts in somewhat different versions; Hauksbók and Skálholtsbók.

Thorvald Eiriksson Icelandic explorer

Thorvald Eiriksson was the son of Erik the Red and brother of Leif Erikson. The only Medieval Period source material available regarding Thorvald Eiriksson are the two Vinland sagas; the Greenland Saga and the Saga of Erik the Red. Although differing in various detail, according to both sagas Thorvald was part of an expedition for the exploration of Vinland and became the first European to die in North America.

Thorfinn Karlsefni Icelandic explorer

Thorfinn Karlsefni was an Icelandic explorer. Around the year 1010 AD, he followed Leif Eriksson's route to Vinland, in a short-lived attempt to establish a permanent settlement there with his wife Guðríður Víðförla Þorbjarnardóttir and their followers.

Naddodd Norwegian explorer

Naddod was a Norse Viking who is credited with the discovery of Iceland.

Vinland sagas literary work

The Vinland Sagas are two Icelandic texts written independently of each other in the early 13th century—The Saga of the Greenlanders and The Saga of Erik the Red,. The sagas were written down between 1220 and 1280, much later than the initial time of action 970–1030.

Rasmus B. Anderson American diplomat

Rasmus Bjørn Anderson was an American author, professor, editor, businessman and diplomat. He brought to popular attention the fact that Viking explorers were the first Europeans to arrive in the New World and was the originator of Leif Erikson Day.

<i>Saga of the Greenlanders</i> Icelandic saga about the Norse exploration of North America

Grœnlendinga saga is one of the sagas of Icelanders. Along with Saga of Erik the Red, it is one of the two main literary sources of information for the Norse exploration of North America. It relates the colonization of Greenland by Erik the Red and his followers. It then describes several expeditions further west led by Erik's children and Þorfinnr "Karlsefni" Þórðarson.

Leif is a male given name of Scandinavian origin. It is derived from the Old Norse name Leifr, meaning "heir", "descendant". Over time leif or laf became confused with the Germanic leib or lip (love) and is now often thought to mean "beloved."

Indigenous Peoples Day Day honoring Indigenous Peoples of the Americas

Indigenous Peoples' Day is a holiday that celebrates and honors Native American peoples and commemorates their histories and cultures. It is celebrated across the United States on the second Monday in October, and is an official city and state holiday in various localities. It began as a counter-celebration held on the same day as the U.S. federal holiday of Columbus Day, which honors Italian explorer Christopher Columbus. Many reject celebrating him, saying that he represents "the violent history of the colonization in the Western Hemisphere", and that Columbus Day is a sanitation or covering-up of Christopher Columbus' actions such as enslaving Native Americans.

Events in the year 1000 in Norway.

The Leif Erikson Awards, sometimes referred to as the Exploration Awards, are awarded annually by the Exploration Museum in Húsavík, Iceland, for achievements in exploration and for work in the field of exploration history. They are awarded in three categories; to an explorer for a lifetime achievement in exploration; to a young explorer under the age of 35 for achievements in exploration; and to a person or an organization that has worked to promote and preserve exploration history.


  1. "Why Do We Celebrate Columbus Day and Not Leif Erikson Day?". National Geographic . October 11, 2015. Retrieved October 12, 2015.
  2. "History – Leif Erikson (11th century)". BBC . Retrieved October 12, 2015.
  3. "L'Anse Aux Meadows & the Viking Discovery of North America". JSTOR Daily. July 23, 2015. Retrieved October 10, 2016.
  4. Gjerset, Knut; Hektoen, Ludvig. 'Becoming American, Becoming Suburban: Norwegians in the 1920s. 33. Norwegian-American Historical Association. p. 3.
  5. "Kohler Signs Two Bills". Manitowoc Herald-Times. May 15, 1929. p. 13. Retrieved October 9, 2016 via Newspapers.com. Open Access logo PLoS transparent.svg
  6. "Wisconsin Schools Will Observe Leif Erikson Day Next Wednesday". The Capital Times. October 6, 1929. p. 9. Retrieved October 9, 2016 via Newspapers.com. Open Access logo PLoS transparent.svg
  7. "Minnesota Ready to Adopt Leif Erikson Day, Says Hoen". The Capital Times. December 28, 1930. p. 18. Retrieved October 9, 2016 via Newspapers.com. Open Access logo PLoS transparent.svg
  8. Hansen, Carl G.O. "Leif Erikson Comes to the Front". My Minneapolis. Nasjonalbiblioteket (The National Library of Norway). The Norwegian National League in Minneapolis took the initiative in getting the Minnesota legislature to adopt a law of the same import and contents as the Wisconsin law making October 9 Leif Erikson Day. Such a bill was signed by Governor Floyd B. Olson, April 7, 1931.
  9. "Cabinet Proclaims 'Leif Ericsson Day'". The Leader-Post. Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. January 18, 1936. p. 3. Retrieved October 6, 2019.
  10. "Pays Tribute to Worth of Scandinavian People". Saskatoon Star-Phoenix. Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. July 18, 1936. p. 5. Retrieved October 6, 2019.
  11. Hansen, Carl Gustav Otto (1956). "Leif Erikson Comes to the Front". My Minneapolis. Minneapolis.
  12. Saur, Andrew (October 9, 2015). "On Leif Erikson Day". The Norwegian American. Duluth, Minnesota.
  13. "Leiv Erikson". Go Norway. 2007. Though many still regard Christopher Columbus as the discoverer of the New World, Eiriksson´s right to this title received the stamp of official approval in the USA when in 1964 President Lyndon B. Johnson, backed by a unanimous Congress, proclaimed October 9th "Leif Ericson Day" in commemoration of the first arrival of a European on North American soil.
  14. Pub.L.   88–566
  15. Johnson, Lyndon B. "Proclamation 3610: LEIF ERIKSON DAY, 1964" (PDF). Government Printing Office.
  16. Penchi, Anastasia (October 9, 2015). "5 Things You Need to Know Before You Go: Leif Erikson Day". La Crosse County Convention and Visitors Bureau. La Crosse, Wisconsin. Archived from the original on October 5, 2018.
  17. Barack Obama (2011). Proclamation 8581 of October 8, 2010: Code of Federal Regulations, Title 3, the President, 2010 Compilation, and Pt. 100-102, Revised as of January 1 2011. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office. p. 130. ISBN   9780160875205. To honor Leif Erikson and celebrate our Nordic-American Heritage, the Congress, by joint resolution (Public Law 88-566) approved on September 2, 1964, has authorized the President to proclaim October 9 as "Leif Erikson Day".
  18. Rowley, Liz (October 9, 2015). "Leif Erikson Day 2015:History and facts about North America's First European Explorer". Mic Network.
  19. Moreau, Jennifer (February 3, 2012). "Local MP pushing for Leif Erikson Day". Burnaby Now. Burnaby, British Columbia. Burnaby-New Westminster MP Peter Julian wants a day dedicated to Leif Erikson
  20. An Act to establish Leif Erikson Day , Leif Erikson Day Act 2016, c. BILL C-244
  21. Eyolfson Cadham, Joan. "Leifur Ericksson Day: If it's a holiday, who celebrates it?". Lögberg-Heimskringla. Foam Lake, SK. The date, October 9, does not mark any special moment in Leifur’s life.
  22. Helgason, Magnús Sveinn (November 2, 2015). "Ten fascinating facts about the statue of Leifur Eiríksson". Iceland Magazine. When, for example, Leif Erikson day was first commemorated nationally in the U.S. in 1964, the date October 9 was chosen because large scale migration from Norway to the U.S. began on that day in 1825 when the ship Restauration arrived in New York from Stavanger in Norway.
  23. Kolodny, Annette (2012). "The Challenge to Columbus". In Search of First Contact: The Vikings of Vinland, the Peoples of the Dawnland, and the Anglo-American Anxiety of Discovery. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press. p. 231. ISBN   9780822352860.
  24. "75 years later, still celebrating Leif Erikson Day". HistoryLink.org: The Free Encyclopedia of Washington State History. February 5, 2016.
  25. "Leif Erikson Day celebrated in Edmonton". Westside Seattle. September 25, 2010.
  26. Radke, Jace (October 2, 2012). "City Council To Recognize Leif Erikson Day" (Press release). City of Las Vegas. Archived from the original on October 19, 2013. Retrieved October 9, 2013.
  27. "Leif Erikson Day to be Celebrated". La Crosse County Convention and Visitors Bureau. 2016.
  28. Robson, Dorothy (October 8, 2015). "Celebrate 'Leif Erikson Day' in Westby". La Crosse Tribune . La Crosse, Wisconsin.
  29. Castelaz, Terri (October 4, 2018). "A different fall Leif festival". Iron Mountain Daily News. Iron Mountain, Michigan. Norway once again will celebrate its Scandinavian heritage this weekend with the annual Leif Erikson Festival.
  30. "Leif Erikson Day celebrated in Edmonton". Embassy of Iceland, Ottawa. 2006.
  31. "Vinland Society to mark Leif Erikson Day Thursday". The Journal Pioneer. Charlottetown. October 8, 2014. The Vinland Society of Prince Edward Island will mark Leif Erikson Day Thursday with a flag-raising ceremony in front of Province House.
  32. Young, Don; Young, Marjorie (2008). Iceland Adventure Guide. Hunter Publishing. p. 89. ISBN   9781588436726. October 9 is Leif Eiriksson's Day, when the people of Reykjavik celebrate the discovery of America.

Further reading