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Thursday, October 9, 2014

Leif Erikson Day

Leiv Eiriksson Discovers North America. Painting by Christian Krohg, 1893 [Public domain]. Available from Wikimedia Commons.

October 9 is Leif Erikson Day. The day honors Leif Erikson, the Norseman who was the first European to explore North America. Leif Erikson is believed to have been born in Iceland in the 970s. He traveled from Greenland to Norway in 999 and became a hirdman (member of a royal household) for King Olaf Tryggvason. According to the Saga of Icelanders, he established a settlement at Vinland. The archaeological site L'Anse aux Meadows, located at the northern tip of Newfoundland, may be the site of Vinland; it was a Norse village that dates to about the year 1000.

Rasmus B. Anderson, author of the book America Not Discovered By Columbus, led the movement to establish a holiday to honor Leif Erikson. A Leif Erikson festival was held in Minneapolis, Minnesota on 9 October 1928. On 10 May 10, 1929 Governor Walter Kohler of Wisconsin signed the bill which established October 9 as Leif Erikson Day. On 7 April 1931, Governor Floyd B. Olson signed the bill which established October 9 as Leif Erikson Day in Minnesota. The main sponsors of the bill, Senator A. O. Devold and representative J. O. Melby, and Ola Johann Særvold, president of the Minneapolis Norwegian National League, were present when the bill was signed. By 1956, Leif Erikson Day was a state holiday in Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, Illinois, Colorado, Washington, and California, and was also a holiday in Saskatchewan, Canada.

On 2 September 1964, Congress approved Public Law 88-566, and President Lyndon B. Johnson issued Proclamation 3610, which designated October 9 as Leif Erikson Day. The date was chosen because the first organized group of immigrants from Norway sailed from Stavanger on the ship Restauration and arrived in New York Harbor on 9 October 1825.

The Leif Ericson Viking Ship has an annual ceremony which includes a ship sailing and a banquet, and features a Scandinavian country. Sweden is the featured country at this year's celebration.

Leif Erikson, Reykjavik, Iceland. Photo by Anthony Inswasty (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-4.0 (], 28 December 2013. Available from Wikimedia Commons.

Territories and Voyages of the Vikings. Map by Bogdan Giuşcă [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (, CC-BY-SA-2.5 (]. Available from Wikimedia Commons.

Carl G.O. Hansen, My Minneapolis, 1956: 91. Leif Erikson Comes to the Front
L'Anse aux Meadows
Leif Ericson Viking Ship 
Leif Erikson
Leif Erikson Day
Presidential Proclamation -- Leif Erikson Day, 2014
Proclamation 3610 - Leif Erikson Day, 1964
Rasmus B. Anderson

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