The Vikings are coming!

Leif Erikson Day Celebrated on October 9th

Photo: James Steakley / Wikimedia Commons Sound the horn! “Leif, the Discoverer,” a statue of Leif Erikson in Milwaukee, would like you to know that his day is approaching.

Photo: James Steakley / Wikimedia Commons
Sound the horn! “Leif, the Discoverer,” a statue of Leif Erikson in Milwaukee, would like you to know that his day is approaching.

Special to NAW
Loch Sheldrake, N.Y.

This coming Thursday, October 9, 2014, the State University of New York Sullivan will host a Scandinavian night in honor of the intrepid Nordic sailor-explorer, Leif Erikson (c.970-1020). October 9th has been declared the official Leif Erikson Day, confirmed as such by U.S. Presidential Proclamation in 1964—and reconfirmed by American presidents ever since that time.

While there are valid historical reasons for determining this October date, the reader will note that Leif Erikson Day comes exactly three days before Columbus Day! It is almost as though the powers-that-be wanted to make crystal clear just who came to these American shores first—some 500 years before that Johnny-Come-Lately, Christopher Columbus in 1492!

The SUNY Sullivan event at Loch Sheldrake will be held in the Central Building of the campus, Room G-121, at 7:00 p.m., October 9. All are welcome to attend free of charge. The program is being sponsored by this academic institution’s Culture Club under the direction of faculty adviser, Dr. Thomas J. Martin, professor of World History and noted scholar on Scandinavia. Dr. Martin has invited his long-time colleague, Donald V. Mehus, graduate of Columbia University and frequent contributor to Norwegian American Weekly, to assist in the program.

At the October 9th program, Dr. Martin will give a talk about Leif Erikson’s voyage to America a thousand years ago. The talk will be followed by a Scandinavian film, other events, and refreshments. For further information about the Leif Erikson program, you may contact Dr. Martin by e-mail at or by phone at (845) 434-5750.

Oxford, Iceland, Harvard
Dr. Martin has lectured widely on the Viking era—from Oxford’s English-Speaking Union to the Icelandic National Radio and Television, from the Harvard Club in New York to the International Viking Congress in Ireland. Thomas Martin was awarded the honor of being designated “Saga Master,” for his work on Viking studies, by the Leif Erikson International of the Swarthmore Club in Philadelphia. This is the same award that one year earlier this organization had bestowed on the Norwegian sailor-explorer, Thor Heyerdahl, for his daring Kon-Tiki cross-Pacific voyage in 1948.

Dr. Martin’s colleague, Donald Mehus, was awarded some time ago a year-long fellowship from The American-Scandinavian Foundation of New York to research Norwegian literature and culture at the University of Oslo. There in the Norwegian capital, Mehus began his own teaching and writing career. His work on a range of Norwegian and other cultural subjects has been subsequently published in many of the leading papers of Europe and America, including those in Berlin, Vienna, London, the Scandinavian and Benelux capitals, and elsewhere.

Tour of the Viking-Related Countries
Some years ago Martin and Mehus made a three-month research tour together in the North Atlantic to a number of Viking-related countries—Iceland, Ireland, Scotland, England, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway. On their return to the United States, they delivered talks to many organizations and wrote numerous articles together for both Scandinavian and nationally read publications. In both teaching and writing, the two scholars are still going strong, with books and more articles steadily in the offing.

Best wishes for a festive Leif Erikson Day on October 9! We hope to see you at SUNY Sullivan, Loch Sheldrake, New York, on that auspicious date.

This article originally appeared in the Oct. 3, 2014 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

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The Norwegian American

The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.