On Leif Erikson Day
Leif Erikson is claimed by the Norwegians and Icelanders, and the Norse explorer is credited as the first European to set foot on the North American continent—beating Christopher Columbus by over 500 years. Leif Erikson Day is October 9, and this year is the fifty-first anniversary of the celebration.
Leif Erikson Day has been largely overshadowed by the Columbus Day holiday. For the past decade, I have wanted to change this. To promote Leif Erikson Day, I have created an annual design to commemorate Leif Erikson Day, which reflects my Nordic heritage.
This year, I created a modern Nordic design based on ancient Viking runestones. Bold lines and colors were applied to represent the courage it took for Erikson to venture across rugged seas to an unknown destination. The iconic Viking ship sails with Leif and his crew of brave sailors to the New World. The red, white, and blue exemplify the shared colors of the American and Norwegian flags, merging together as one.
Scandinavian Americans, particularly in the Upper Midwest, have been campaigning for Leif Erikson Day for over 100 years. In 1930, Wisconsin became the first state to officially adopt the holiday, thanks to efforts by Norwegian American Rasmus B. Anderson.
In 1963, U.S. Representative John Blatnik introduced a bill to observe it nationwide. Also that year Hubert H. Humphrey of Minnesota entered a joint resolution into the Congressional Record to authorize the President to proclaim October 9 as Leif Erikson Day. Finally, in 1964, Congress requested that the President create the observance through an annual proclamation. Lyndon B. Johnson and each president since have done so.
October 9 was chosen because it was on October 9, 1825, that the first Norwegian immigrants on the ship Restauration landed in New York City.
The journey of Leif Erikson reflects the spirit that has made America strong. In commemorating Leif Erikson Day each year, we honor the pioneering spirit of this son of Iceland and grandson of Norway. We evoke memories of the valiant Viking seafarers, who saw the sea as an entryway to another world. We pay tribute to the courage of their descendants who would brave their own ocean journeys to find a new life in the New World. Through my art exploration, I want to share my Nordic pride with my community.
Andrew Saur and his wife, Angel, were married in Leif Erikson Park 12 years ago and live in Duluth, Minnesota, with their daughter, Annika.
This article originally appeared in the Oct. 9, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.