Leif Erikson Day

Leif Erikson Day celebrates this Icelandic explorer on October 9th of each year. He is considered the first Nordic person to set foot on American soil and many believe he was the first European. Historians estimate that this happened around the year 1000.

This holiday is not widely observed by Americans. Historical societies, museums, and libraries may hold special programs or educational events. The United States has issued stamps dedicated to Leif Erikson on this day in the past. Some Nordic-Americans may celebrate with cultural festivals. These events will center on the explorer’s journey or his adventurous and resilient spirit, which the President usually comments on during the annual proclamation. Many people consider the United States to be of Nordic heritage because of Leif Erikson’s explorations. Leif Erikson Day is the favorite holiday of the popular cartoon character, SpongeBob

About Leif Erikson

Not much is known about Leif Erikson’s early life. He was born around 970 most likely in Iceland. He is known to have lived in Norway for a time because his brother was sent into exile for committing manslaughter there and brought Leif with him back to Iceland.

He converted to Christianity after he began to work for King Olaf I of Norway. One a voyage to bring Christianity to Greenland, Erikson was blown off course and landed in Vinland, which was somewhere around northeastern Canada, believed to likely be Newfoundland. It is also believed that he may have made it to Minnesota on one excursion. Most of what we know about this exploration is due to archaeology and brief mentions in old texts. There were no official Norse settlements of this area, only occasional explorations. Many of these explorations suffered from Indian attack.

Wisconsin was the first to establish a Leif Erikson day in 1929. The federal observance was established in 1964. October 9th was chosen to commemorate the first group of Norwegian immigrants arriving in the United States on October 9th, 1825 in the New York Harbor.

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