Leif Erikson Day

Leif Erikson Day

U.S. stamp issued on Leif Erikson Day, 1968
Observed by United States
Type Cultural
Significance Recognize contributions of Americans of Nordic descent
Date October 9
Next time October 9, 2017 (2017-10-09)
Frequency annual
Related to Leif Erikson

Leif Erikson Day is an annual American observance which occurs on October 9.[1] It honors Leif Erikson (Icelandic: Leifur Eiríksson, Old Norse: Leifr Eiríksson, Norwegian: Leiv Eiriksson), the Norse explorer who led the first Europeans thought to have set foot in continental North America,[2][3][4] except for Greenland.


The book America Not Discovered by Columbus by Rasmus B. Anderson was published in 1874, helping popularize the idea that Vikings were the first Europeans in the New World. During his appearance at the Norse-American Centennial 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.[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] A year later, the state of Minnesota followed suit. 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).[9] In 2012, the day was also made official in Las Vegas, Nevada.[10]

In 1963, the U.S. Representative from Duluth, John Blatnik, introduced a bill to observe Leif Erikson Day nationwide. The following year Congress adopted this unanimously. In 1964, the United States Congress authorized and requested the President to create the observance through an annual proclamation. Lyndon B. Johnson did so, as has each President since. Presidents have used the proclamation to praise the contributions of Americans of Nordic descent generally and the spirit of discovery. In addition to the federal observance, some states officially commemorate Leif Erikson Day, particularly in the Upper Midwest, where large numbers of people from the Nordic countries settled.


October 9 is not associated with any particular event in Leif Erikson's life. The date was chosen because the ship Restauration coming from Stavanger, Norway, arrived in New York Harbor on October 9, 1825, at the start of the first organized immigration from Norway to the United States.[11][12]

In Episode 3B of the second season of the American animated television series SpongeBob SquarePants, the show's title character celebrates the holiday by wearing a horned helmet and a fake red beard.[13]


  1. Office of the Press Secretary (October 8, 2015). "Presidential Proclamation – Leif Erikson Day, 2015". The White House.
  2. "Leiv Erikson". Go Norway. 2007.
  3. "History – Leif Erikson (11th century)". BBC. Retrieved October 12, 2015.
  4. "Why Do We Celebrate Columbus Day and Not Leif Erikson Day?". National Geographic. October 11, 2015. Retrieved October 12, 2015.
  5. Gjerset, Knut; Hektoen, Ludvig. 'Becoming American, Becoming Suburban: Norwegians in the 1920s. 33. Norwegian-American Historical Association. p. 3.
  6. "Kohler Signs Two Bills". Manitowoc Herald-Times. May 15, 1929. p. 13. Retrieved October 9, 2016 via Newspapers.com.
  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.
  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.
  9. Hansen, Carl Gustav Otto (1956). "Leif Erikson Comes to the Front". My Minneapolis. Minneapolis.
  10. Radke, Jace (October 2, 2012). "City Council To Recognize Leif Erikson Day" (Press release). City of Las Vegas. Retrieved October 9, 2013.
  11. "Leif Erikson Day in United States". TimeandDate.com.
  12. "Leif Erikson in Humboldt Park". Norwegian National League. Archived from the original on October 19, 2009.
  13. "SpongeBob SquarePants – Season 2". Retrieved March 9, 2016.

Further reading

  • Anderson, Rasmus Bjorn (1874). America Not Discovered by Columbus: an historical sketch of the discovery of America by the Norsemen in the Tenth Century. Chicago: S.C. Griggs. 
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