"Happy Leif Erikson Day, y'all! Ja!
It became official in 1964 when Lyndon B. Johnson, backed by a unanimous Congress, proclaimed Oct. 9 a holiday to honor the Norwegian who was really the first to discover America."
That was my lead in a 2002 column in which I went on to tell about Karina Ronsen, a Norwegian foreign exchange student at North Gwinnett High School and what she was discovering about America. I thought it was a cute tie-in.
A few days later, a letter to the editor appeared lambasting me for that statement, trashing Leif Erikson and proving Erikson was not the first to discover America because "solid evidence from archeological digs is telling, albeit controversial." The writer concluded by saying "European Americans surely have many other things to boast about than Leif Erikson Day."
OK. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. And that includes President George W. Bush, who in 2008 proclaimed "We remember that son of Iceland and grandson of Norway for his journey to North America, and we celebrate the influential role Nordic Americans have played in our society. And President Obama, who declared on Leif Erikson Day in 2009, "Nordic Americans have contributed immeasurably to the success of America. Their cultural accomplishments have enriched the diversity of our country. And their pioneering spirit continues to embody our nation's unbounded enthusiasm for discovery and learning." And if that isn't convincing enough, SpongeBob unabashedly announced that Leif Erikson Day is his favorite holiday. So much for the talk. Now for the action, in which I felt honored to be a participant at the October meeting of the Sons of Norway Vennekretsen Lodge No. 3-578.
President and Lilburn resident Erik Kind greeted everyone with a souvenir Norwegian flag to commemorate Leif Erikson Day. While we feasted on Norwegian delicacies and examined authentic Viking garb and weapons, historian Seth Rainey conducted a Power Point presentation on Leif Erikson. Then he announced his newest adventure as part of the Viking Reenactment Society: Georgia Vikings: Sons of Loki.
As the jarl (chieftain) of the group, Rainey is inviting men, women and kids to join in on the fun, noting that women played a big role in Viking culture, especially in the handling of money. Sons of Loki will educate and train new members in all aspects of the culture. Their inaugural event will include saga-telling and a demonstration of Viking weaponry at Fernbank Museum during the weekend of Nov. 19-20. Then on March 17-18, in true Viking spirit, Sons of Loki will camp out at Fort Yargo State Park in Winder, where they will recreate Viking life with authentically seasoned beef and barley stew, weaving, leatherwork, metal work and, of course, some action with swords, axes and spears.
You don't have to be of Nordic descent to get in on the fun. All you need is some "unbounded enthusiasm for discovery and learning."
For more info, go to www.Vennekretsen.com or email Rainey at email@example.com.
Susan Larson is a writer who lives in Lilburn and is married to a Norwegian. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.