Long before 1492 when Columbus sailed the ocean blue, Leif Erikson and his band of Norsemen landed on the eastern coast of Canada.  The date of that arrival is commonly held to be October 9th, 1001, though most accounts say that Erickson arrived in the "fall of the year."  Historians have acknowledged for years that Erikson and his crew were the first Europeans to colonize America when they started a small settlement in what is now Newfoundland.

The first organized Norwegian immigration to America began in 1825, and as more and more Scandinavians arrived, many settled in the northern United States.  So, it seemed appropriate (and politically advantageous) when in 1925 at the Minnesota State Fair, President Calvin Coolidge proclaimed that Leif Erikson had indeed been the first European to discover America.  In 1964 the U.S. Congress made it official by declaring October 9th to be Leif Erikson Day, and so it is today.

Every 5 or 6 years or so, Columbus Day and Leif Erikson Day coincide as they do today.  Over the years Christopher Columbus' name has fallen into disrepute.  For one thing most historians agree that Columbus never landed in North America, period.  He also didn't prove the Earth was round, as legend would have it.  That fact had been known as far back as 240 B.C!  Most of all, Columbus was just an all-around nasty human being.  In fact, many cities and some states around the country are now renaming Columbus Day as Indigenous Peoples Day.  (Guess the first community to do that.  Berkeley, California.  Duh!)  If popular opinion continues to move that way, it seems that Congress will be forced to drop Columbus' name from the day forever.

Which brings us back to Leif Erikson.  I don't know what kind of guy he was, but he was originally a Viking, so you know he was tough as nails.  He converted to Christianity during his travels back and forth from Norway to the New World, so that could have instilled in him qualities such as compassion and mercy.  Or not.  I don't know.

What I do know from having spent five years living in Maple Grove, Minnesota, is that people of Scandinavian descent are some of the nicest people you'll ever meet.  But they do have a funny accent, and they eat some weird food.  So, if we were to truly begin celebrating Leif Erikson Day across the U.S., there are five essential sayings we would all have to learn:

1.  Oh, yah, you betcha!  This would be how you say "Yes" to any question that requires an affirmative answer.

2.  Do you wanna go with?  This would be how you would ask someone to accompany you somewhere.  (It took my wife years to not shout "Me!" every time she was asked this question.)

3.  Shall I bring hot dish?  This is how you politely offer to bring a casserole to a pot luck dinner.

4.  Holey buckets!  This is an exclamation similar to "Holy Cow!", not a description of someone's leaky pail.

5.  Uff da!  This is one of the most versatile Scandinavian phrases that can be used to express surprise, astonishment, exhaustion, relief, and sometimes dismay.  It is similar to the Southern phrase, "Well butter my butt and call me a biscuit!"

So, this will give you a jump-start on the celebration of Leif Erikson Day today.  If it ever becomes a big deal like Thanksgiving where we sit down to eat a meal that commemorates the day, just pray you don't have to eat lutefisk.



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