Posted by: marymarthatours | March 16, 2014

Happy St. Urho’s Day

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If you are not of Finnish heritage, you may not know about the illustrious St. Urho, who is celebrated today all over Minnesota, in Northern Michigan, in parts of Canada, and even in Finland.

Here is the Legend of St. Urho as presented by the City of Menahga, Minnesota:

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.  Archeologists 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.

“Heinasirkka, heinasirkka, mene taalta hiiteen.”  (Translated: Grasshopper, grasshopper, go away!)

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, mene taalta hiiteen.” 

Adult males, (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.

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Skeptical people, especially those of Irish extraction, claim that St. Urho was invented by “tose Finns” to get an early start on two days of beer drinking.  I’m sorry to say that there is a grain of truth in the accusation.  St. Urho is indeed a modern legend.  The story of his exploits date from 1956 when Virginia, Minnesota, Finnish-American Richard Mattson was chided by an Irish co-worker that Finland had no saint like St. Patrick who drove the snakes from Ireland.  Mattson’s answer was to write the original “Ode to St. Urho” which has been adapted by other contributors to the current “legend”.  Newness notwithstanding, St. Urho has become a favorite in Minnesota – maybe we just need to celebrate as much GREEN as possible in mid-March.

So wherever you live and whatever your ethnic heritage – CELEBRATE ST. URHO’S DAY and have a purple beer.

(by Mary)

 

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