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Leif Erikson Day in the United States

Leif Erikson Day honors a viking explorer known as Leif Erikson. He is believed to be the first recorded Nordic person to have visited North America. It is believed that he visited places such as Baffin Island and Labrador around 1000 CE.

Is Leif Erikson Day a Public Holiday?

Leif Erikson Day is not a public holiday. Businesses have normal opening hours.

Leif Erikson Day
Leif Erikson Day honors the first Scandinavian to set foot on American soil.
Leif Erikson Day honors the first Scandinavian to set foot on American soil.
©iStockphoto.com/StephanHoerold

What Do People Do?

The president of the United States issues a proclamation about the holiday. Many US presidents have, in the past, publicly praised the spirit of exploration and discovery, as well the contributions of people with a Nordic background and their culture.

Public Life

Leif Erikson Day is and observance and not a federal public holiday in the United States. Public transit systems run on their regular schedules.

Background

Leif Erikson was born of Norwegian descent around 970 CE in Iceland. It is thought that his father and grandfather were outlaws and explorers around Scandinavia and Greenland. His father founded two settlements in Greenland. Leif had two brothers and one sister. He married a woman named Thorgunna and they had one son, called Thorkell Leifsson.

Leif Erikson went to Norway to work for King Olaf I of Norway. During his stay, he converted to Christianity. When he returned to Island, he bought a boat and, in 1003, set out to explore the land west of Greenland that had been discovered by Bjarni Herjolfsson, and older explorer. The land that he had discovered was actually Newfoundland, which is now part of Canada. The 'Saga of the Greenlanders' tells of his adventures.

It is thought that he visited Baffin Island and Labrador and settled on the Northern part of the island of Newfoundland, now all part of Canada. There are speculations that Leif Erikson or later explorers may have traveled into the area that is now Minnesota in the United States. Some controversial archaeological finds, such as the Kensington Runestone and the Maine Penny, support this theory, but it is not considered proven.

October 9 was chosen because it is the anniversary of the day that the ship Restauration arrived in New York from Stavanger, Norway on October 9, 1825. This was the start of organized immigration from Scandinavia to the USA. The date is not associated with an event in Leif Erikson's life.

Leif Erikson Day Observances

YearWeekdayDateNameHoliday TypeArea
2010SatOct 9Leif Erikson DayObservance 
2011SunOct 9Leif Erikson DayObservance 
2012TueOct 9Leif Erikson DayObservance 
2013WedOct 9Leif Erikson DayObservance 
2014ThuOct 9Leif Erikson DayObservance 
2015FriOct 9Leif Erikson DayObservance 
2016SunOct 9Leif Erikson DayObservance 
2017MonOct 9Leif Erikson DayObservance 
2018TueOct 9Leif Erikson DayObservance 
2019WedOct 9Leif Erikson DayObservance 
2020FriOct 9Leif Erikson DayObservance 

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