Posted by: Kath Usitalo | March 16, 2009

Happy St. Urho’s Day


St. Urho tribute in Kaleva (provided photo)

St. Urho tribute in Kaleva (provided photo)

Finland and its northern Lapland region were in the national spotlight Friday as the Good Morning America audience saw the land of my ancestors in all its frozen glory. In the conclusion to the ABC TV program’s BIG series, Diane Sawyer toured the world’s largest ice hotel, nibbled on salmon and cloudberries, and floated among chunks of ice in the one degree water of the Baltic Sea. The program covered Finland’s education system, reindeer, and the tradition of sauna (unlike any you’ve experienced in U.S. chain hotels).

I did not see mention of St. Urho, who is celebrated each March 16 for saving Finland’s grape crop by chasing a plague of grasshoppers out of the country. This act of heroism occurred in ancient days when Finland’s climate was warmer, vineyards flourished, and grasshoppers were terrified of a man with a pitchfork chanting, “Heinäsirkka, heinäsirkka, mene täältä hiiteen” (loosely translated, “Grasshopper, grasshopper, go to Hell!”).

The Legend of St. Urho is better known in the U.S. than in Finland, mainly because the patron saint was invented in Minnesota in the 1950s. There is a statue of St. Urho in Menahga, Minnesota and a sculpture of a giant grasshopper in Kaleva, Michigan

Unlike the widespread celebrations of March 17 when everyone claims to be Irish, St. Urho tributes are low-key and mainly found in pockets of Northern Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon and Canada, where Finnish-Americans have learned how to pronounce Urho (it involves rolling the “r”). Salutes to the obscure idol revolve around mojakka (stew) suppers, wearing of the purple and green, and raising a glass or several—which also happens to help with the rolling of the “r”, as in Happy St. Urrrrrrho’s Day!

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Responses

  1. I love purple and green! does the stew include fried grasshoppers? Happy St. Urho’s Day!

    • Suppose (after numerous toasts to St. Urho) you could put them in a stew but Grasshoppers are better as minty drinks.

      • Hey, I’ll drink to that! perhaps I already did, as I thought I was replying this morning and the posted reply times on your blog are late afternoon. Is this Finnish time?

  2. It’s Great Lakes Gazette time—always 5 o’clock somewhere.

  3. Who knew?

  4. […] March I wrote about St. Urho, the legendary Finnish hero who saved the grape crop by chasing all the grasshoppers out of […]

  5. […] would know. Or was it on Saturday? While the controversy wages on, we face the very real threat of being overrun by giant grasshoppers. Now that we have lost Minnesota’s own Peter Graves, St. Urho is our only hope! So, […]

  6. […] St. Urho’s Day 2009 Like this:LikeBe the first to like this post. […]

  7. […] Happy St. Urho’s Day (2009) […]


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