Minnesota Was One of the First States to Celebrate Leif Erikson Day
Known for the clip from Spongebob Squarepants, Leif Erickson Day is celebrated on October 9th every year. But did you know Minnesota was one of the first states to observe the day?
Leif Erickson was a Norse explorer who lead the first Europeans thought to have set foot on Continental North America. Before Christopher Columbus. According to the Sagas of Icelanders, he established a Norse settlement at Vinland, tentatively identified as the northern tip of Newfoundland in modern-day Canada.
So why do we celebrate his day on October 9th? Well the date actually has nothing to do with Leif, the date was chosen because the ship Restauration coming from Norway arrived in New York Harbor on October 9, 1825, starting a wave of immigration from Norway to America.
President Calvin Coolidge has a lot to do with why it is observed in Minnesota. During his appearance at the Norse-American Centennial at the Minnesota State Fair in 1925, President Coolidge gave recognition to Leif Erikson as the discoverer of America (not Columbus) due to research by Norwegian-American scholars Knut Gjerset and Ludvig Hektoen. Then in 1929 Wisconsin officially adopted it as a state holiday, and we followed suit in 1931.
In 1963, Senator Hubert Humphrey and Representative John Blatnik, both from Minnesota, introduced bills to observe Leif Erikson Day nationwide. On September 2, 1964, Congress unanimously authorized and requested the President to create the observance through an annual proclamation. Lyndon B. Johnson did so that year, as has each president in the years since, often using the proclamation to praise the contributions of Americans of Nordic descent generally and the spirit of discovery.