Monday, October 9, 2006

Leif Erikson Day, Columbus Day (Observed), October 9th


Today is the day of many celebrations... It is Leif Erikson Day, and Columbus Day (Observed), and Soccer Dad's birthday, so go wish him happy birthday. And if you have today off, I am really jealous of you.

So, why do we have a Leif Erikson Day and a Columbus Day, and why are they so darn close to each other?

Columbus Day commemorates the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the New World. (You know, "In Fourteen hundred and ninety-two Columbus sailed the ocean blue...") Columbus Day was first celebrated primarily by Italian-Americans in New York City on October 12th beginning 1866. (But, some dispute his Italian heritage.) The celebrations spread across the United States to San Francisco by 1869. Yep, only three years. All this partying must have got out of hand because those who were in charge decided that it would be easier to make it a national holiday than to try to stop the partying. In 1937, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt proclaimed October 12th to be Columbus Day, National Holiday. (Kinda makes you wonder what is going to happen to Talk Like A Pirate Day, huh!)

October 12th proved to be an inconvenient holiday for Americans, and, since it wasn't Christmas or the Fourth of July, when President Richard Nixon came along, he declared that Columbus Day was to be observed the second Monday of each October, which also is Thanksgiving Day for our Canadian friends. Which makes this holiday convienent for those with dual citizenship. Also, the three day weekend-ness gives Columbus Day so much more credibility as a holiday.

So, why do we have Leif Erikson Day?

Italian-Americans embraced the celebration of Columbus Day. But, not all Americans were happy about the celebration of Columbus's landing. Rasmus B. Anderson petitioned for Leif Erikson to be nationally recognized as the first European to set foot on the American continent. In 1929, Wisconsin was the first state to recognize a Leif Erikson Day.

Rasmus died in 1936, so he did not see Congress declare, by joint resolution, Leif Erikson Day in 1964. Congress authorized and requested President Lyndon B. Johnson to proclaim October 9th as "Leif Erikson Day" and requested that each successive president of the United States make the same declaration.

October 9th is not the day that Leif Erikson landed on the American continent. In fact, the date is not his birthday, nor his deathday, nor the day he got married, or anything else date-worthy in Leif's life. October 9, 1825 was the day the ship Restauration arrived in New York Harbor, which marked the start of the first organized immigration from Norway to the United States.

So, really, if you have the day off, you are just celebrating immigration today, Italian, Norwegian...

2 comments:

Absent-minded Secretary said...

Also, it's Moldy Cheese Day.

Master Fob said...

Columbus Day also means the bank is closed, as I realized when the doors refused to budge.