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]

Leif Erikson Norse explorer, discoverer of New Foundland

Leif Erikson or Leif Ericson was a Norse explorer from Iceland. He was the first known European to have set foot on continental North America, before Christopher Columbus. According to the Sagas of Icelanders, he established a Norse settlement at Vinland, tentatively identified with the Norse L'Anse aux Meadows on the northern tip of Newfoundland in modern-day Canada. 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.

Old Norse North Germanic language

Old Norse was a North Germanic language that was spoken by inhabitants of Scandinavia and their overseas settlements from about the 9th to the 13th centuries.

Icelandic language North Germanic language mainly spoken in Iceland

Icelandic is a North Germanic language spoken in Iceland. Along with Faroese, Norn, and Western Norwegian it formerly constituted West Nordic; while Danish, Eastern Norwegian and Swedish constituted East Nordic. Modern Norwegian Bokmål is influenced by both groups, leading the Nordic languages to be divided into mainland Scandinavian languages and Insular Nordic.



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]

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.

Vikings Norse explorers, warriors, merchants, and pirates

Vikings were Scandinavians, who from the late 8th to late 11th centuries, raided and traded from their Northern European homelands across wide areas of Europe, and explored westwards to Iceland, Greenland, and Vinland. The term is also commonly extended in modern English and other vernaculars to include the inhabitants of Norse home communities during what has become known as the Viking Age, 798–1066 AD. This period of Nordic military, mercantile and demographic expansion constitutes an important element in the early medieval history of Scandinavia, Estonia, the British Isles, France, Kievan Rus' and Sicily.

LAnse aux Meadows Archaeological site on the island of Newfoundland, Canada

L'Anse aux Meadows is an archaeological site on the northernmost tip of the Great Northern Peninsula on the island of Newfoundland in the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Archaeological evidence of a Norse presence was discovered at L'Anse aux Meadows in the 1960s. It is the only confirmed Norse or Viking site in or near North America outside of the settlements found in Greenland.

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] often using the proclamation to praise the contributions of Americans of Nordic descent generally and the spirit of discovery. [17] [18]

Hubert Humphrey 38th Vice President of the United States

Hubert Horatio Humphrey Jr. was an American politician who served as the 38th vice president of the United States from 1965 to 1969. He twice served in the United States Senate, representing Minnesota from 1949 to 1964 and 1971 to 1978. He was the Democratic Party's nominee in the 1968 presidential election, losing to Republican nominee Richard Nixon.

John Blatnik American politician

John Anton Blatnik was a United States Congressman from Minnesota. He was a member of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (DFL), which is affiliated with the Democratic Party.

United States Congress Legislature of the United States

The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States, and consists of two chambers: the House of Representatives and the Senate. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. Both senators and representatives are chosen through direct election, though vacancies in the Senate may be filled by a gubernatorial appointment. Congress has 535 voting members: 435 representatives and 100 senators. The House of Representatives has six non-voting members representing Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia in addition to its 435 voting members. Although they cannot vote in the full house, these members can address the house, sit and vote in congressional committees, and introduce legislation.

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

Parliament of Canada the federal legislative branch of Canada

The Parliament of Canada is the federal legislature of Canada, seated at Parliament Hill in Ottawa, the national capital. The body consists of the Canadian monarch, represented by a viceroy, the Governor General; an upper house, the Senate; and a lower house, the House of Commons. Each element has its own officers and organization. By constitutional convention, the House of Commons is dominant, with the Senate and monarch rarely opposing its will. The Senate reviews legislation from a less partisan standpoint and the monarch or viceroy provides royal assent to make bills into law.


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]

<i>Restauration</i> (ship)

Restauration was a sloop built in 1801, in Hardanger, Norway. It became a symbol of Norwegian American immigration. Historical sources may contain several variations on the name of the sloop, including Restauration, Restoration, Restaurasjonen, and Restorasjon.

Stavanger Municipality in Norway

Stavanger is a city and municipality in Norway. It is the third largest city and metropolitan area in Norway and the administrative centre of Rogaland county. The municipality is the fourth most populous in Norway. Located on the Stavanger Peninsula in Southwest Norway, Stavanger counts its official founding year as 1125, the year the Stavanger Cathedral was completed. Stavanger's core is to a large degree 18th- and 19th-century wooden houses that are protected and considered part of the city's cultural heritage. This has caused the town centre and inner city to retain a small-town character with an unusually high ratio of detached houses, and has contributed significantly to spreading the city's population growth to outlying parts of Greater Stavanger.

Norway Country in Northern Europe

Norway, officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic country in Northwestern Europe whose territory comprises of the western and northernmost portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula; the remote island of Jan Mayen and the archipelago of Svalbard are also part of the Kingdom of Norway. The Antarctic Peter I Island and the sub-Antarctic Bouvet Island are dependent territories and thus not considered part of the kingdom. Norway also lays claim to a section of Antarctica known as Queen Maud Land.


In addition to the federal observance, 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]

The Upper Midwest is a region in the northern portion of the U.S. Census Bureau's Midwestern United States. It is largely a sub-region of the Midwest. Although the exact boundaries are not uniformly agreed-upon, the region is officially defined as referring to the states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa, South Dakota, and North Dakota.

Nordic countries Geographical and cultural region in Northern Europe and the North Atlantic

The Nordic countries, or the Nordics, are a geographical and cultural region in Northern Europe and the North Atlantic, where they are most commonly known as Norden. The term includes Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden, as well as Greenland and the Faroe Islands—which are both part of the Kingdom of Denmark—and the Åland Islands and Svalbard archipelagos that belong to Finland and Norway respectively, whereas the Norwegian Antarctic territories are often not considered a part of the Nordic countries, due to their geographical location. Several regions in Europe, such as the Northern Isles of Scotland, share cultural or ethnic ties with Nordic nations, but are not considered to be Nordic countries. Scandinavians, who comprise over three quarters of the region's population, are the largest group, followed by Finns, who comprise the majority in Finland; other ethnic groups are the Greenlandic Inuit, the Sami people, and recent immigrants and their descendants. The native languages Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Icelandic, and Faroese are all North Germanic languages rooted in Old Norse. Native non-Germanic languages are Finnish, Greenlandic and several Sami languages. The main religion is Lutheran Christianity.

Las Vegas Largest city in Nevada

Las Vegas, officially the City of Las Vegas and often known simply as Vegas, is the 28th-most populated city in the United States, the most populated city in the state of Nevada, and the county seat of Clark County. The city anchors the Las Vegas Valley metropolitan area and is the largest city within the greater Mojave Desert. Las Vegas is an internationally renowned major resort city, known primarily for its gambling, shopping, fine dining, entertainment, and nightlife. The Las Vegas Valley as a whole serves as the leading financial, commercial, and cultural center for Nevada.

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 the year 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, presumably including both Newfoundland and the Gulf of Saint Lawrence as far as northeastern New Brunswick.

Erik the Red discoverer of Greenland

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. According to Icelandic sagas, he was born in the Jæren district of Rogaland, Norway, as the son of Thorvald Asvaldsson. He therefore also appears, patronymically, as Erik Thorvaldsson. The appellation "the Red" most likely refers to the color of his hair and beard. Icelandic explorer Leif Erikson was Erik's son.

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 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 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.

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.

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.

Freydís Eiríksdóttir was said to be born around 970 to Erik the Red who was associated with the Norse exploration of North America and the finding of Vinland with his son Leif Erikson. The only medieval and primary sources we have of Freydís are the two Vinland sagas; the Greenland saga and the Saga of Erik the Red. The two sagas offer differing accounts, though in both Freydís appears as a masculine, strong-willed woman who would defy the odds of her society.

<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, thought to have been composed before 1265, on the Norse exploration of North-America. Despite the name, the saga mainly chronicles the life and expedition of Thorfinn Karlsefni and his wife Gudrid, characters also seen in the Greenland saga. The saga also details the events that led to Erik the Red's banishment to Greenland and Leif Erikson's preaching of Christianity as well as his discovery of Vinland after his longship was blown off course. By geographical details, this place is thought to be present-day Newfoundland, and was probably the first European discovery of the American mainland, some five centuries before Christopher Columbus's arrival in the Antilles.

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.

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 Eric the Red,. The sagas were written down between 1220 and 1280, much later than the initial time of action 970–1030.

Native American Day is a holiday celebrated across the United States in lieu of Columbus Day. In California and Nevada, the holiday is celebrated on the fourth Friday of September, whereas in South Dakota and Wisconsin, it falls on the second Monday of October. Within each of these states, Native American Day honors the cultural contributions of Native American communities to the respective state’s history, as well as to the overall country. The state of Tennessee observes a similar American Indian Day each year on the fourth Monday of September.

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 now reject celebrating him, saying that he represents "the violent history of the colonization in the Western Hemisphere". Many activists believe that this holiday is a sanitation or covering-up of Christopher Columbus' actions such as enslaving Native Americans. This Holiday can be seen as a recognition of Indigenous peoples who were oppressed by Christopher Columbus and other colonizers.

Norse-American Centennial

The Norse-American Centennial celebration was held at the Minnesota State Fair on June 6–9, 1925.

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.

This page is a timeline for when various municipalities, universities, and states in the United States have officially recognized Indigenous Peoples' Day.


  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 Erikson 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.
  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. Leif Erikson Day Act , Private Member's Bill 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