Almost five centuries before Christopher Columbus discovered America, Leifur Eiríksson and his group of travelers explored North America. Those with Scandinavian/Viking heritage celebrate Leifur Eiríksson Day/Leif Erikson Day each year. In Icelandic, his name is spelled Leifur Eiríksson. He is called, “The son of Iceland, grandson of Norway, and the discoverer of North America.” His nickname is Leif the Lucky.
In 1964, the US Congress unanimously authorized that October 9th would be the official Leif Erikson Day. This is not a special day in Leifur’s life but the date was chosen because the Norwegian immigrant ship, Restauration, arrived in New York on this day in 1825.
Many places have special celebrations during this week and you will find beautiful statues of Leifur throughout the USA. Below is a timeline of these special statues donated by the people of the United States.
1838: The Sagas were translated into English and Americans could learn about Leifur Eiríksson.
1887: Boston, Massachusetts – The first Leifur statue in the United States was erected.
1887: Milwaukee, Wisconsin – A copy of the Boston statue.
1901: Chicago, Illinois – A Leifur statue was erected in Chicago, Illinois.
1929: Wisconsin becomes the first US State to officially adopt Leif Erikson Day as a state holiday.
1931: Reykjavík, Iceland – The wonderful Leifur statue was presented by the United States government to Iceland as a celebration commemorating the 1000th anniversary of Iceland’s Alþingi – the world´s oldest parliament. The statue was placed in Reykjavík on 03 May 1932. The Hallgrímskirkja (large Hallgríms church) was commissioned in 1937 and it took 41 years to build.
1931: Minnesota officially adopts Leif Erikson Day as a state holiday.
1932: New Rochelle, New York – Leif Ericsson Park large boulder with a bronze plaque.
1936: Los Angeles – Bust of Leifur when California proclaimed Leif Erikson Day.
1938: Newport News, Virginia received a 12-foot replica of the Reykjavík statue. It was presented by the Icelandic National League in the United States – for the 1939 World’s Fair.
1939: New York, New York – The 12-foot replica is featured at the World’s Fair.
1949: St. Paul, Minnesota – a 13-foot statue on the state capitol grounds.
1956: Duluth, Minnesota – a replica of Boston´s statue.
1962: Seattle, Washington – a 16-foot statue at the marina.
1993: Minot, North Dakota – at the Scandinavian Heritage Park.
1997: Trondheim, Norway – a 10-foot replica of the Seattle statue was given to Norway to celebrate their 1,000-year anniversary.
2000: Eiríksstaðir, Iceland – this statue was given to Iceland from the United States and erected on his birthplace to celebrate the millennial anniversary of Leifur’s voyage to North America.
2000: Qassiarsuk, Greenland – erected by The Leif Eriksson International Foundation of Seattle.
2001: Cleveland, Ohio – a bust of Leifur from Seattle’s statue.
2003: Seattle, Washington – second bust of Leifur’s Seattle statue.
2013: L’Anse aux Meadows – Third and final replica of the Seattle statue erected.
2018: The Leif Erikson International Foundation of Seattle donated a 2-foot high bust of Leifur to the Hebrides where the sagas say Leifur visited.
So – Happy Leifur Eiríksson Day!