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Leif Erikson Day

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Leif Erikson Day
U.S. stamp issued on Leif Erikson Day, 1968 (featuring Reykjavík's statue of Leif)
Observed byUnited States, parts of Canada, and communities in the Nordic countries
SignificanceCelebrating Leif Erikson as the first European to lead a voyage to North America
DateOctober 9
Next timeOctober 9, 2024 (2024-10-09)
Related toLeif Erikson

Leif Erikson Day is an annual observance that occurs on October 9.[1] It honors Leif Erikson (Old Norse: Leifr Eiríksson),[note 1] the Norse explorer who, in approximately 1000, led the first Europeans believed to have set foot on the continent of North America (other than Greenland).[2]

Because the exact date of Leif's arrival to the Americas is unknown, the October 9 date was chosen in commemoration of the Restauration's arrival to New York Harbor, carrying some of the first Norwegian immigrants to the United States. This means the holiday occurs before Columbus Day (although it is sometimes coincident with the US' observation of Columbus Day).[3]


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 verified in 1960.[4] In his speech during the Norse-American Centennial at the Minnesota State Fair in 1925, President Calvin Coolidge gave recognition to Leif Erikson as the discoverer of America.[5] In 1929, Wisconsin became the first U.S. state to officially adopt Leif Erikson Day as a state holiday,[6][7] thanks in large part to efforts by Rasmus Anderson.[8] In 1931, Minnesota did also.[9] As a result of efforts by 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.[10][11] 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).[12]

The federal government of the United States first recognized Leif Erikson Day in 1935 as a result of House Joint Resolution 26, which had been introduced during the 74th Congress (1935–1936) by Congressman Harry Sauthoff of Wisconsin.[13] Originally, the resolution was written to request the US president annually proclaim October 9 as Leif Erikson Day, but it was amended in committee to be for 1935 only.[14] After passing Congress, the legislation was signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on June 19, 1935.[15] As requested in the joint resolution, Roosevelt then issued presidential proclamation 2135 on September 11, 1935, designating October 9 of that year as Leif Erikson Day.[16]

Presidential Proclamation 2135 authorized, in 1935, the first US federal observance of Leif Erikson Day. Since 1964, presidential proclamations observing the day have been issued annually.

In the following decades, several unsuccessful attempts were made to pass legislation requesting Leif Erikson Day be proclaimed annually by the president.[17] During the 88th Congress (1963–1964), various members of Congress introduced 12 different resolutions to that effect.[18] One of these pieces of legislation, House Joint Resolution 393 (proposed by Congressman John Blatnik of Minnesota), was passed by Congress and then signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on September 2, 1964, becoming Public Law 88–566.[19][20][21] As requested by the joint resolution, President Johnson also signed Presidential Proclamation 3610 proclaiming October 9 of that year as Leif Erikson Day.[22] Under the 1964 joint resolution, each president in the years since has issued an annual proclamation,[23] often using the opportunity also to praise the contributions of Americans of Nordic descent generally and the spirit of discovery.[24][25]

Bills have been introduced in the Parliament of Canada to observe Leif Erikson Day throughout the country, but they have failed to pass.[26][27]


October 9 is not associated with any particular event in Leif Erikson's life.[28] The exact date of Leif's arrival to the Americas is unknown, but the Sagas state that it was in autumn. At the suggestion of Christian A. Hoen, October 9 was settled upon, as it took place in the fall and was already a historic date for Scandinavians in America.[12] 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 the United States.[29]


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.[30] It has long been observed in Seattle, Washington.[31][32] In 2012, the day was celebrated in Las Vegas, Nevada.[33] Westby, Wisconsin, and Norway, Michigan, have held festivals near the day.[34][35][36] There have been Canadian commemorations, including in Edmonton, Alberta,[37] and Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.[38] The day is also celebrated in Iceland.[39][better source needed]

In popular culture[edit]

The holiday was referenced in the episode "Bubble Buddy" of the Nickelodeon animated series SpongeBob SquarePants.[40] SpongeBob shouts "Hey, everybody! It's Leif Erikson Day!", followed by some vaguely Norse-sounding gibberish, often written as "hinga dinga durgen". Later, Patrick says, "Happy Leif Erikson Day!", followed by some vaguely Norse-sounding gibberish that could be rendered as "yerga hinger dinger". Forbes states that the holiday is often mainly associated online with its appearance in SpongeBob SquarePants and poses that "Perhaps this is the best way to remember the day".[3] The episode is arguably responsible for popularizing the holiday outside of the Norwegian-American community.[41]


  1. ^ Icelandic: Leifur Eiríksson, Norwegian: Leiv Eiriksson, Swedish: Leif Eriksson, Danish: Leif Eriksen. He is also referred to as Leif the Lucky.


  1. ^ "Why Do We Celebrate Columbus Day and Not Leif Erikson Day?". National Geographic. October 11, 2015. Archived from the original on August 7, 2019. Retrieved October 12, 2015.
  2. ^ "History – Leif Erikson (11th century)". BBC. Retrieved October 12, 2015.
  3. ^ a b Suciu, Peter (October 9, 2020). "Leif Erikson Day Vs. Christopher Columbus Day Is Just Another Thing To Fight About On Social Media". Forbes.
  4. ^ "L'Anse Aux Meadows & the Viking Discovery of North America". JSTOR Daily. July 23, 2015. Retrieved October 10, 2016.
  5. ^ Gjerset, Knut; Hektoen, Ludvig. 'Becoming American, Becoming Suburban: Norwegians in the 1920s. Vol. 33. Norwegian-American Historical Association. p. 3. Archived from the original on February 12, 2012.
  6. ^ "Kohler Signs Two Bills". Manitowoc Herald-Times. May 15, 1929. p. 13. Retrieved October 9, 2016 – via Newspapers.com. Open access icon
  7. ^ "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 icon
  8. ^ "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 icon
  9. ^ Hansen, Carl G.O. (1956). "Leif Erikson Comes to the Front". My Minneapolis. Minneapolis: Privately published. Archived from the original on December 7, 2009. 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.
  10. ^ "Cabinet Proclaims 'Leif Ericsson Day'". The Leader-Post. Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. January 18, 1936. p. 3. Retrieved October 6, 2019.
  11. ^ "Pays Tribute to Worth of Scandinavian People". Saskatoon Star-Phoenix. Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. July 18, 1936. p. 5. Retrieved October 6, 2019.
  12. ^ a b Hansen, Carl G.O. (1956). "Leif Erikson Comes to the Front". My Minneapolis. Minneapolis: Privately published. Archived from the original on December 7, 2009.
  13. ^ Congressional Record, 74th Congress, volume 79, page 57
  14. ^ "Leif Erikson Day Oct. 9 Proclaimed". The Green Bay Press-Gazette. Green Bay, WI. September 16, 1935. p. 5.
  15. ^ 49 Stat. 392
  16. ^ Roosevelt, Franklin D. "The Statutes at Large of the United States of America from January 1935 to June 1936. Vol 49, part 1, pages 3468–3469". Government Printing Office.
  17. ^ Tollefson, Thor C. (March 4, 1964). Leif Erikson Day: Hearings before Subcommittee No. 4 of the Committee on the Judiciary. House of Representatives (Report). Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office. p. 5. Retrieved July 29, 2023. For quite a few years, and even prior to the time that I first came to Congress, similar resolutions had been introduced, seeking to have October 9 declared Leif Erikson Day. All of the previous efforts have been unsuccessful.
  18. ^ Congressional Record, 88th Congress, volumes 109–110
  19. ^ Pub. L.Tooltip Public Law (United States) 88–566 Full Text
  20. ^ Congressional Record, 88th Congress, volume 110
  21. ^ "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.
  22. ^ Johnson, Lyndon B. "Proclamation 3610: LEIF ERIKSON DAY, 1964" (PDF). Government Printing Office.
  23. ^ Guttormsen, Torgim Sneve (2018). "Valuing Immigrant Memories as Common Heritage: The Leif Erikson Monument in Boston". History & Memory. 30 (2). Indiana University Press: 99. doi:10.2979/histmemo.30.2.04. S2CID 166186978.
  24. ^ Obama, Barack (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".
  25. ^ Rowley, Liz (October 9, 2015). "Leif Erikson Day 2015: History and facts about North America's First European Explorer". Mic Network.
  26. ^ 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
  27. ^ An Act to establish Leif Erikson Day, Leif Erikson Day Act 2016, c. BILL C-244
  28. ^ 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.
  29. ^ 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.
  30. ^ 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.
  31. ^ "75 years later, still celebrating Leif Erikson Day". HistoryLink.org: The Free Encyclopedia of Washington State History. February 5, 2016.
  32. ^ "Leif Erikson Day celebrated in Edmonton". Westside Seattle. September 25, 2010.
  33. ^ 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.
  34. ^ "Leif Erikson Day to be Celebrated". La Crosse County Convention and Visitors Bureau. 2016. Archived from the original on April 10, 2020.
  35. ^ Robson, Dorothy (October 8, 2015). "Celebrate 'Leif Erikson Day' in Westby". La Crosse Tribune. La Crosse, Wisconsin. Archived from the original on October 5, 2018.
  36. ^ Castelaz, Terri (October 4, 2018). "A different fall Leif festival". Iron Mountain Daily News. Iron Mountain, Michigan. Archived from the original on October 4, 2018. Norway once again will celebrate its Scandinavian heritage this weekend with the annual Leif Erikson Festival.
  37. ^ "Leif Erikson Day celebrated in Edmonton". Embassy of Iceland, Ottawa. 2006. Archived from the original on October 5, 2018.
  38. ^ "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.
  39. ^ 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.
  40. ^ "Bubble Buddy". Spongebob Squarepants. Season 2. Episode 23b. Nickelodeon.
  41. ^ "On Columbus Day, what about Leif Erikson?". Newsday. June 10, 2018.

Further reading[edit]