*March 16, 1956 – Happy St. Urho’s Day to all of my Finn friends and family, and all wannabe-Finns. You know who you are.
I am basically a quarter Finn (my paternal grandmother was 100% Finn). I have taken DNA tests for genealogical purposes in the hopes of finding relatives in Finland and Sweden who can give me more info on my great-grandparents’ families. One test said I am 22% Finn, the other one said I am 16% Finn. Close enough.
Celebrating St. Urho’s Day is so much fun, mainly because non-Finns look at you like your crazy; most of them don’t even know what you’re talking about. For those of you unfamiliar with St. Urho, here’s the 411:
Though the actual date the story of Finland’s patron saint, St. Urho, was conceived is not clear, it is believed the first annual celebration was held on this date.
Richard Mattson, who worked at Ketola's Department Store in Virginia, Minn., is credited with coming up with the idea of the Finnish saint. He once wrote “about how he created St. Urho: ‘Winters are long and cold in Virginia, Minnesota, on the Iron Range. Gene McCavic, a co-worker at Ketola's Department Store, chided me in 1953 that the Finns did not have saints like St. Patrick. I told her the Irish aren't the only ones with great saints. She asked me to name one for the Finns. So I fabricated a story and thought of St. Eero (Eric), St. Jussi (John), and St. Urho. Urho, a common Finnish named, had a more commanding sound.’'
So Mattson told McCavic the Finns had a St. Urho. And to save the grape crop, he chased all the poisonous frogs from Finland before the last Ice Age. Never mind that grapes never grew in Finland -- this is legend.”
“The fame of St. Urho, who drove frogs from Finland and saved the grape crop, has spread far and wide, even across the sea to Finland where there's more than one St. Urho's Pub. There's a St. Urho's statue in Menahga, Minn., and one in Finland, Minn., and the Helsinki Bar in Butte, Mont., has a St. Urho's celebration. Mattson's wish that St. Urho and the wearing of the purple and green would live on [has been] fulfilled.” http://www.sainturho.com/
St. Urho Statue in in Menahga, Minn.
Plaque on Statue
THE LEGEND OF ST. URHO
One of the lesser known, but extraordinary legends of ages past is the legend of St. Urho-Patron Saint of the Finnish vineyard workers.
Before the last glacial period wild grapes grew with abundance in the area now known as Finland. Archaeologists have uncovered evidence of this scratched on the thigh bones of the giant bears that once roamed northern Europe. The wild grapes were threatened by a plague of grasshoppers until St. Urho banished the lot of them with a few selected Finnish words.
In memory of this impressive demonstration of the Finnish language, Finnish people celebrate on March 16, the day before St. Patrick's Day. It tends to serve as a reminder that St. Pat's day is just around the corner and is thus celebrated by squares at sunrise on March 16. Finnish women and children dressed in royal purple and nile green gather around the shores of the many lakes in Finland and chant what St. Urho chanted many years ago.
"HEINASIRKKA, HEINASIRKKA, MENETAALTA HIITEEN."
(Translated: "GRASSHOPPER, GRASSHOPPER, GO AWAY!")
Adult male, (people, not grasshoppers) dressed in green costumes gather on the hills overlooking the lakes, listen to the chant and then kicking out like grasshoppers, they slowly disappear to change costumes from green to purple. The celebration ends with singing and dancing polkas and schottisches and drinking grape juice, though these activities may occur in varying sequences.
Color for the day is royal purple and nile green.