Small town girl. Joins Navy. Sees the world. Flies in planes. Hunts submarines. Gets out of military and has 3 kids. Rejoins Air National Guard as an "old lady" of 38.

A humorous compilation of stories and lessons learned. Usually the hard way.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Who is this Saint You Speak Of?

Happy St. Urho’s Day!
St. Who- you may ask if you are not from northern wooded Minnesota. You know- St. Urho. (Spoken by ‘rolling’ the ‘r’ on your tongue like an exotic linguist.) He's that guy that drove the grasshoppers out of Finland, thus saving the grape crops and joining sainthood.  Oh yes, he’s right up there with Peter, Paul, and Mary and comes marching in with the rest of them.

A Little Background

Ever since I was a wee lass, they taught us all about St. Urho back in the good ol' King Elementary School.  (aka- the only elementary school in Deer River)  We would all wear purple the day before everyone else in the country wore green.  As legend has it- it is speculated that St. Urho's Day was invented in attempt for the Finlanders to get a jump on the drinking before the Irish did on St. Patty's Day.  [Darn Irish bar-hogs!] Of course this key note was left out of our elementary school's teachings.

And So the Legend Goes...
(After a bit of research- I found this rendition to be my favorite, courtesy of

"Once upon a time, many many years ago in Finland they say (they being geologists and such) there used to be wild grapes growing all over.  How do they know this?  From studying the remains of bears in that area.

Well, one season a bunch of grasshoppers (i.e. locust) with a voracious appetite for grapes happen to hop into Finland.  What to do?

Enter our Finnish Hero, St. Urho!  Waving his pitchfork and chanting "Heinäsirkka, heinäsirkka, mene täältä hiiteen" (roughly translated: "Grasshopper, grasshopper, go to Hell!") he drove the grasshoppers out of the vineyards.  Now, I'm sure everyone in Minnesota wished that getting rid of mosquitoes could be that easy!

The Finnish grape farmers (viners?) were very protective of their fields because they didn't have much of a growing season.  (Note:  It isn't exactly like the Italian or French vineyards up there.)  So, rumor has it that they injected Vodka into their grapes to give them a bigger alcohol content.  I guess this is an early version of "organic farming" regarding pest control?

Feeling so happy and grateful to Urho, they declared him a saint.  He did this on March 16, the day before St. Patrick's Day.

Every year since then, the Finnish people celebrated St. Urho's Day on March 16.  The official colors are purple to represent the grapes and green to represent the vines (or the dead grasshoppers-- depending on whose version you hear).

The St. Urho's day ceremony begins at sunrise.  The celebration includes singing, dancing polkas and drinking wine, grape juice,for those underage and having Mojakkaa (fish soup pronounced like "moy-yah-kah") which is what St. Urho ate to give him his strength to fight grasshoppers. [or that was just what our grandparents told us so we'd eat the wretched-smelling treat]

The city of Menahga, MN actually has a stature of St. Urho in the town.  [See picture above] The original statue was carved in 1982 with a chainsaw from a 2000 lb oak block.  Since then, it's been replaced with a fiberglass replica to deal with the harsh Minnesota weather."

And finally, I'll close with my favorite poem in which the essence of a true Finlander is captured along with their beautifully seductive accent: [Frenchmen be jealous!]

Ode to St. Urho
By Gene McCavic

Written in Finnish dialect
(original location at the Iron World Museum, Chisholm, MN)

Ooksie kookise coolama vee
Santia Urho is ta poy for me!
He sase out ta hoppers as pig as birds
Neffer peefor haff I hurd does words!
He reely told does pugs of kreen
Braaffest finn I effer seen!
Some celebrate for St. Pat unt hiss nakes
Putt Urho poyka kot what it takes.
He got tall and trong from feelia sour
Unt ate culla moyakka effery hour.
Tat's why day guy could sase does peetle
What crew as thick as chack bine needles.
So lets give a cheer in hower pest way
On this 16th of March, St. Urho's Tay!

[You must read aloud for full effect.  I like to pretend I'm talking like my grandpa or great uncle.]

And now, you may consider yourself more educated.  Have a fabulous day and don't forget to get your purple beer on!!

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  1. Wow, I found this blog through random browsing just a minute ago. I happen to be Finnish myself and I find this whole St. Urho theme a bit weird. I first heard about it a few years ago so I must say it isn't really a part of common knowledge here in Finland. Amusing though. :)

    1. Oh that is so funny! A Finnish legend honored in Minnesota but not Finland. The community in which I grew up was actually called Soumi. So happy you found me and enlightened me! :)

    2. Funny I'm not even a Finlander and I know this guy. Oh that's right I grew up surronded by Finlanders in Minnesota