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Gail Skroback Hennessey taught for over 33 years, teaching sixth grade in all but two years. She earned a BA in early secondary education with a concentration in social studies and an MST in social...
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Leif Ericsson Day is October 9th. What do you Know about the Vikings?


October 9, 2023, is Leif Eriksson Day. Eriksson, a Viking (Norse) and son of Erik the Red, was born around 970 AD, in Iceland. It is believed that Eriksson (also spelled Ericson, Erikson) sailed to North America (area of Canada) around the year 1000 and named the area Vinland. Although some say the name was for the wild grapes found growing in the area, others say the name means “land of meadows”.He eventually left and returned to Greenland and never sailed back to North America again. Erikson is recognized by many as being the first European to reach North America, almost 400 years before Columbus arrived in 1492. 

In Newfoundland, Canada, a camp discovered in the 1960s, supported the fact that Vikings reached the area around the 11th century. The archaeological site is called L’Anse aux Meadows. Learn more here:

The first U.S. president to sign a proclamation declaring Leif Erikson Day (October 9th) was Franklin D. Roosevelt. The year was 1935. Since President Lyndon B. Johnson, 1964, Leif Eriksson Day, has been given yearly recognition by U.S. presidents. The day is an opportunity to share the contributions of Americans of Nordic heritage.


Bjarni Herjulfsson, an Icelandic seatrader, is also believed to have spotted the continent of North America about 14 years earlier than Leif Ericsson. He sailed on and didn’t explore the area of land so that’s why the day isn’t called Bjarni Jerjulfsson Day!

To date, Canada has yet to recognize Leif Erikson Day.

Leif Erikkson Day is October 9th. 
What do YOU know about the Vikings?
Did You Know? 
1. Those horned helmets, you often see with Vikings did not really exist. There weren’t any horns on their helmets. 
2. In addition to a statue to Leif Ericksson in the countries of Norway and Iceland, there are statues of Leif Ericsson in several cities in the United States: Minnesota, Boston, Cleveland and Seattle. 
3. Vikings had “fire-starters”. They mixed urine(sodium nitrate is found in urine) with a fungus called touchwood which was found on tree bark. The felt-like cloth would smolder for days so Vikings could take their “firestarter” with them! 
4. Some Vikings invaded other groups of people, frightening them by wearing wolf and bear skins. The word berserk comes from Berserkers, these particular Vikings. 
5. The first President to give Leif Eriksson credit for being the first European to discover America was Calvin Coolidge. He gave a speech where he made the statement. 
6. Leif Eriksson was honored with a U.S. Postage Stamp, in 1968. 
7. The word “law” comes from the Norse language. It is estimated that 20% of words in English come from the Norse language.
8. In a time when most people didn’t bath on a regular basis, the Vikings had razors, tweezers and archeologists have even found ear cleaners left behind from Norsemen. 
9. Vikings named three of the days of the week, still used today. Vikings worshipped  many gods. On Wednesday, they honored ,Odin, god of war(chief god). This became Wodensday(Wednesday). Thursday honored, Thor, god of thunder, and was called Thorsday(Thursday). Friday, was the day to honor their female goddess, Freya, goddess of love. Freyasday became Friday. 
10. Viking last names(called your surname  was based on the Patronymic naming system. This system is used today in the country of Iceland, home to the early Vikings. Leif, as Erik’s son, got the last name of Eriksson(son of Erik). A daughter of Erik, would have been named Erikdottir. (daughter of Erik).Thus, the last names in a family are different. 

  1. The Vikings used a writing system called Runes. Try writing a message using the Old Norse writing system and more RUNES
2 . Icelandic sagas, (stories), told of the Vikings times. Read a story from the Vikings:
How Odin lost his Eye and  In the Giant’s House. 
3. Draw a Viking ship. Write a day in the life of a Viking. What did you do? See? on your voyage.
4. Another possible writing activity. The Viking myths(stories) told of a giant mean wolf named Fenrir. Write a story about the wolf. Draw a picture of Fenrir.
5. Have students write a paragraph  using 10 words which come from the Norse language:
7. Learn more about the Vikings!
Check out this Resource on the Vikings:
Part of my Ms. Bie Ografee Talk Show Series of plays, Leif Ericsson and his father, Eric the Red are guests on Ms. Bie Ografee's Talk Show. They share information about their lives and the Vikings. There is a Did You Know? section of fun facts, reading comprehension questions and a teacher section with lots of extension activities, links and the key. A Reader's Theater Script on Leif Eriksson and Eric the Red! Learn about the Vikings!
Gail Hennessey
  • Note: There are different spellings for Leif Ericsson’ name.
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