Monday, September 21, 2009

Leif Erikson Day in United States

Leif Erikson was the first European to set foot in the New World, opening a new land rich with resources for the Vikings to explore. But for some unknown reason, the Vikings only made a few voyages to the New World after Leif. Unfortunately, this caused his discovery to remain unknown to nearly all of Europe, which was in the midst of the Crusades.
The American observance of Leif Erikson Day is Friday, 9 October 2009. It honors Leif Erikson (Leifur Eiríksson), who brought the first Europeans known to have set foot on North American soil. He is believed to be the first recorded Nordic person to have visited the area that is now the United States. It is believed that he visited Baffin Island and Labrador around 1000.
The president of the United States issues a proclamation about the holiday. Many US presidents have, in the past, publicly praised the spirit of exploration and discovery, as well the contributions of people with a Nordic background and their culture.
Leif Erikson Day is and observance and not a federal public holiday in the United States. Public transit systems run on their regular schedules.
Leif Erikson was born of Norwegian descent around 970 in Iceland. It is thought that his father and grandfather were outlaws and explorers around Scandinavia and Greenland. His father founded two settlements in Greenland. Leif had two brothers and one sister. He married a woman named Thorgunna and they had one son, called Thorkell Leifsson.
Leif Erikson went to Norway to work for King Olaf I of Norway. During his stay, he converted to Christianity. When he returned to Island, he bought a boat and, in 1003, set out to explore the land west of Greenland that had been discovered by Bjarni Herjolfsson, and older explorer. The land that he had discovered was actually Newfoundland, which is now part of Canada. The 'Saga of the Greenlanders' tells of his adventures.
It is thought that he visited Baffin Island and Labrador and settled on the Northern part of the island of Newfoundland, now all part of Canada. There are speculations that Leif Erikson or later explorers may have traveled into the area that is now Minnesota in the United States. Some controversial archaeological finds, such as the Kensington Runestone and the Maine Penny, support this theory, but it is not considered proven.
October 9 was chosen because it is the anniversary of the day that the ship Restauration arrived in New York from Stavanger, Norway on October 9, 1825. This was the start of organized immigration from Scandinavia to the USA. The date is not associated with an event in Leif Erikson's life.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Ancestral Home

It is light already
when dawn comes to the day.
Wind blows across the Denmark Strait,
sweeps spray onto the shore
at Keflavik where planes assemble
and depart in Arctic mist and rain.

We come in clouds,
stained by the morning sun,
descend to the sea,
to visit our ancestral home,
to see the church at Kross
where Grandpa Christian
got a blessing and a name.
When he was a man,
he went to the Westlands,
got a another name
that few in Iceland knew.

The old house, patriarchal in its mien,
stands stalwart in the grass
at Arnarholl. It is the house
where Groa lives. She knows
it only as the home
that always has been hers,
and wonders if, somehow, we are related
since my folk lived here before,
but cannot see a likeness in my face.

She does not know
that once the house
on Eagle Hill bulged with love,
echoed with laughter,
that children ran
through summer sunlight,
shouting at the terns
that mocked them.

The gulls are there still,
but none know where
the children went,
except for two, one folded
in the cheerless turf at Reykjavik,
the other, Grandpa Christian
on the lonely plains
where Blackfeet ruled
and buffalo once roamed.

Wind takes the measure
of its province--the weathered
heights of Iceland’s snow,
the willows on Milk River.
But it, too, goes away,
and like the breath of life
becomes the breathing of the past.

D. Gary Christian
Santa Clara, Utah
June 2, 2005

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


Elisabet was born 17 June 1849 in Kirkjubaer, Vestmannaeyjar. Her parents are Eirikur Hansson, born in 1815 at Vilborgarstadir in Vestmannaeyjar; and Kristin Jonsdottir, born in 1811 in Eystri-Klasabardi, Sigluvik, Rangarvalla.She married Isleikur Olafsson, born 15 July 1849 in Vodmulastadir, Rangarvalla. His parents are Olafur Isleiksson, born 23 January 1820, died 4 February 1884; and Katrin Jonsdottir, born 19 July 1823, died 3 November 1897. They were married 15 January 1888 in Vestmannaeyjar.

Isleikur and Elisabet had seven children born in Iceland, however only two survived: Sigurjon, born 18 September 1884, died 23 June 1916; and Karolina, born 17 September 1887, died 16 February 1981. The family immigrated to Spanish Fork, Utah in 1890. They first lived with Elisabet’s brother Eirikur. Isleikur worked for the Rio Grande Railroad at Colton in Spanish Fork Canyon. They moved their family to Colton, where they stayed for four years. Elisabet worked at Earl’s Cafe as well as taking in boarders and making bread and cakes for sale. They then returned to Spanish Fork, where they built a home on Fifth East and Second South. Elisabet died 27 August 1937 in Delta, Utah; she is buried in the Spanish Fork City Cemetery. She was known in Utah as Elizabeth Hanson, Elisabet E. Olson, and Ella Olson. She is number 298 in Icelanders of Utah.