Tomorrow, March 16th, is St. Urho’s Day. With much less PR and fanfare as the Irish St. Patrick’s Day, St. Urho’s Day has its origins not in Finland but in Northern Minnesota. According to the website dedicated to St. Urho:
The legend of St. Urho originated in Northern Minnesota in the 1950s. However, there are differing opinions as to whether it began with the fables created by Sulo Havumaki of Bemidji, or the tongue-in-cheek tales told by Richard Mattson of Virginia. Either way, the legend has grown among North Americans of Finnish descent to the point where St. Urho is known and celebrated across the United States and Canada, and even in Finland.
St. Urho’s Day is celebrated on March 16th, the day prior to the better known feast of some minor saint from Ireland, who was alleged to have driven the snakes from that island.
The legend of St. Urho says he chased the grasshoppers out of ancient Finland, thus saving the grape crop and the jobs of Finnish vineyard workers. He did this by uttering the phrase: “Heinäsirkka, heinäsirkka, mene täältä hiiteen” (roughly translated: “Grasshopper, grasshopper, go to Hell!”). His feast is celebrated by wearing the colors Royal Purple and Nile Green. St. Urho is nearly always represented with grapes and grasshoppers as part of the picture.
Saint Urho has been recognized with proclamations in all 50 states. Minnesota Governor Wendell Anderson issued a proclamation in his state, the unofficial home of Saint Urho, in 1975.
So kick-up your heels and enjoy this St. Urho Polka:
Our sincere thanks to Tim “Timo Winkenen” Winker and Randy “Uncle Toivo” Jokela for keeping St. Urho’s Day spirit alive and well.
Written by Mary Hirsch