A statue stands proud and tall, dressed in Finnish attire, holding a pitchfork, upon which is impaled a grasshopper. He is St. Urho, who like St. Patrick with the snakes, ran the grasshoppers out of Finland saving the wine harvest.
So why does the statue reside in Menahga, Minnesota? Because St. Urho was originally conceived by a department store worker in Virginia, Minnesota when asked why there are no Finnish Saints. But like all good myths, the legend has grown. Originally he had chased out frogs, that was changed to grasshoppers. The original day was May 24th, but that was changed to March 16th, the day before St. Patrick’s so there could be two days of celebration.
In Finland, Minnesota, a second statue resides. This one carved from a tree with a chainsaw, has a charming, neo-Finnish abstract look to it.
In Rolla, North Dakota, for the sixth straight year, a parade is planned for St. Urho’s Day.
The day has grown so in popularity that there are St. Urho clubs in the United States, Canada, and even back in Finland. There is a St. Urho’s golf course and campgrounds in Ontario, Canada.
There are celebrations throughout Minnesota and Wisconsin because of their larger Finnish-American populations, but the celebrations have spread throughout the United States. There’s a St. Urho’s Day picnic in London Bridge Beach, Lake Havasu City, Arizona. In New Port Richey, Florida, at the Finnish American Club, they have a St. Urho’s Day dinner. The Finnish American Heritage Society in Canterbury, Connecticut has celebrations. And they have Katrilli and Skandia Folkdancers celebrating St. Urho’s Day in Cedar Valley Grange in Lynnwood, Washington.
Silly? Maybe. But is it any sillier than believing someone could drives snakes out of Ireland?
I think not. Fun is fun.
So today, celebrate the day wearing royal purple and nile green, hoist a purple beer, and chant “Heinäsirkka, heinäsirkka, mene täältä hiiteen” (which roughly translated means, “Grasshopper, grasshopper, go from hence to Hell!”)
For more information, go to SaintUrho.com.