Leif Erikson Day

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Leif Erikson Day
Leif Erikson 6c 1968 issue.JPG
U.S. stamp issued on Leif Erikson Day, 1968
Observed byUnited States, Canada, and Nordic Council countries
SignificanceCelebrating Leif Erikson as the first European to lead a voyage to North America
DateOctober 9
Next timeOctober 9, 2023 (2023-10-09)
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, Swedish: Leif Eriksson), 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 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 exact date of Leif's discovery of the Americas is unknown, but the Sagas state that it was in autumn. At the suggestion of Christian A. Hoen, 9 October was settled upon, as it took place in fall, and was already a historic date for Scandinavians in America.[22] 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.[23]


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.[24] It has long been observed in Seattle, Washington.[25][26] In 2012, the day was made official in Las Vegas, Nevada.[27] Westby, Wisconsin, and Norway, Michigan, have held festivals near the day.[28][29][30] There have been Canadian commemorations, including in Edmonton, Alberta,[31] and Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.[32] The day is also celebrated in Iceland.[33]

In popular culture[edit]

The holiday was referenced in the episode "Bubble Buddy" of the Nickelodeon animated series SpongeBob SquarePants.[34] On multiple occasions throughout the episode, characters shout "Happy Leif Erikson Day!", followed by some vaguely Norse-sounding gibberish. Forbes states that the holiday is often mainly associated online with its appearance in SpongeBob SquarePants, and poses that "[p]erhaps this is the best way to remember the day".[35] The episode is arguably responsible for popularizing the holiday outside of the Norwegian-American community.[36]


  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. Vol. 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
  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
  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
  8. ^ Hansen, Carl G.O. "Leif Erikson Comes to the Front". My Minneapolis. Nasjonalbiblioteket (The National Library of Norway). 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.
  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. Archived from the original on December 7, 2009.
  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 Full Text
  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. ^ Hansen, Carl Gustav Otto (1956). My Minneapolis: A Chronicle of what Has Been Learned and Observed about the Norwegians in Minneapolis Through One Hundred Years. Privately published.
  23. ^ 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.
  24. ^ 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.
  25. ^ "75 years later, still celebrating Leif Erikson Day". HistoryLink.org: The Free Encyclopedia of Washington State History. February 5, 2016.
  26. ^ "Leif Erikson Day celebrated in Edmonton". Westside Seattle. September 25, 2010.
  27. ^ 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.
  28. ^ "Leif Erikson Day to be Celebrated". La Crosse County Convention and Visitors Bureau. 2016. Archived from the original on April 10, 2020.
  29. ^ 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.
  30. ^ 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.
  31. ^ "Leif Erikson Day celebrated in Edmonton". Embassy of Iceland, Ottawa. 2006. Archived from the original on October 5, 2018.
  32. ^ "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.
  33. ^ 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.
  34. ^ "Bubble Buddy". Spongebob Squarepants. Season 2. Episode 23b. Nickelodeon.
  35. ^ Suciu, Peter (October 9, 2020). "Leif Erikson Day Vs. Christopher Columbus Day Is Just Another Thing To Fight About On Social Media". Forbes.
  36. ^ "On Columbus Day, what about Leif Erikson?". Newsday. June 10, 2018.

Further reading[edit]