Leif Erikson Day History
Leif Erikson Day serves to honor Viking Explorer Leif Erikson and celebrate Nordic-American Heritage. Erikson is believed to have been the first European to set foot on the North American continent, having done so nearly 500 years before Christopher Columbus. He established a settlement called Vinland and although its exact location is not known, it is believed that it is near L'anse aux Meadows, in Newfoundland, Canada, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In 1925, Leif Erikson was officially recognized by President Calvin Coolidge as the first explorer to discover the continent. It took another four decades for the day to become official when, in 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared October 9th as Leif Erikson Day. In 2015, President Barack Obama reproclaimed the day and called upon Americans to celebrate the day appropriately in honor of Nordic-American heritage and the explorers that embarked on the expeditions that led to the creation of the United States.
Leif Erikson Day Facts & Quotes
- Leif Erikson was actually born in Iceland but his family was Norwegian. He died in Greenland in the year 1020.
- On October 9, 1825, the first wave of Norwegian immigrants arrived on US soil in New York City. Between 1825 and 1925, nearly one-third of Norway's population immigrated to the US.
- Erikson named his settlement Vinland or Wineland due to the many grape vines that he discovered there.
- There are more than 4.5 million Americans with Norwegian ancestry living in the US today, of which 55% live in the Upper Midwest states.
Histories have been written and more will be written of the Norwegians in America, but no man can tell adequately of the tearing asunder of tender ties, the hardships and dangers crossing the deep, the work and worry, the hopes and fears, the laughter and tears, of men and women who with bare hands carved out of a wilderness a new kingdom. - Rønning, N. N., from the book Fifty Years in America
Leif Erikson Day Top Events and Things to Do
- Purchase a Leif Ericson Millennium Commemorative Coin from the US Mint. The coins were released at the beginning of the century however you can purchase some from collectors online or even try to find them in public circulation.
- Visit one of the many Leif Erikson statues in the United States. There are statues in Boston, Milwaukee, Chicago, Cleveland, Virginia, Seattle, Minnesota and North Dakota.
- Take a trip to Iceland, Norway or Greenland and visit the homelands of Leif Erikson.
- Take a trip to UNESCO site of L'Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland, Canada. This is believed to be the site of Erikson's first New World settlement.
- Watch a movie about Vikings and Leif Erikson. Some movies include: Leif Ericson (2000) and The Vikings (1958), The Viking Sagas (1995) and The 13th Warrior (1999).