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Leif Erikson Day

All the proud Scandinavians like to remember Leif Erikson Day every year on October 9.

The day honors the Viking explorer who is thought to have been the first person from the old world to set foot in the new. Five hundred years before Columbus, Leif the Lucky, as he was known, was perhaps blown off course while sailing from Norway to Greenland. Or maybe he traveled there deliberately after hearing of lands to the west from an Icelandic trader. The Norse sagas tell conflicting tales.

When Leif and his crew landed in North American, they noted the vast forests. They also spotted abundant grapes growing so they named the new land Vinland (Land of Wine).

Unfortunately, the sagas do not tell us the coastal location of Vinland. It remained a mystery until archaeologists found Viking-type ruins in northern Newfoundland at a place called L’Anse aux Meadows. Perhaps this is where Leif Erikson stopped.

Americans began observing Leif Erikson Day in 1964. President Lyndon Johnson began the tradition of issuing an annual proclamation to remember the Viking and to honor the contributions of Americans of Nordic descent.

October 9 has no connection to Leif Erikson himself. The day was chosen because the wave of Norwegian immigration to America began on October 9, 1825 when the ship Restauration from Stavanger, Norway arrived in New York.

How will I celebrate Leif Erikson Day and my Viking heritage tomorrow? One of the Sons of Norway lodges in California is hosting an online talk about the explorer, and I may tune in for that.

Leif Erikson Day calls for Nordic refreshments, too. My husband/tech advisor and I plan to bring out the aquavit as we honor the Viking spirit of discovery. Skål!

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