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St. Urho's Day

St. Urho's Day celebrates the legend of St. Urho, which originated in Northern Minnesota in the 1950s. The day spread through Minnesota amongst Finnish communities on the Mesabi Iron Range and is now celebrated in Finnish communities across the United States and Canada. The day even made its way to Finland. Government officials have made proclamations for the day. For example, former Minnesota Governor Wendell Anderson made a proclamation for it in 1975. In many communities, it is more widely celebrated than St. Patrick's Day, a holiday that occurs the following day.

The day was created by Richard Mattson, a worker at Ketola's Department Store in Virginia, Minnesota, in the spring of 1956. The name "Urho" was possibly used because Urho Kekkonen had just become President of Finland the same year. The legend originally said that St. Urho expelled frogs from ancient Finland, in order to save the grape crops, and thus the jobs of vineyard workers. Later the legend was changed—possibly by Sulo Havumaki, a psychology professor of Bemidji, Minnesota— to say that Urho had expelled grasshoppers, not frogs.

Mattson, along with Gene McCavic, wrote "Ode to Saint Urho." The poem told of a Finnish boy who got strong on sour whole milk and fish soup, and used his voice to chase out frogs. It was later changed to reflect the chasing out of grasshoppers; when expelling the grasshoppers, Urho is now thought to have said a Finnish phrase that can be translated to "Grasshopper, grasshopper, go to hell!" The original poem also said the day took place on May 24. It may have been changed to March 16 so that it would be celebrated the day before St. Patrick's Day. St. Patrick was another saint, albeit a real one, who was known for supposedly driving out animals—in this case, driving snakes from Ireland.

How to Observe St. Urho's Day

Celebrate by wearing the colors of the day: royal purple and nile green. There are a few statues dedicated to Urho that you could visit in Minnesota. One is in Menahga, and another is in the city of Finland. You could also attend some St. Urho's Day celebrations. Both of the aforementioned cities have them. Celebrations also happen in many other cities, such as Butte, Montana; Thunder Bay, Ontario; and Turku, Finland. You may search for and submit other events. You could also read the "Ode to Saint Urho," and even see the original poem, which was written on wrapping paper and is on display at the Minnesota Discovery Center. If you can't travel today, eat some grapes and make yourself a grasshopper to drink. There are plenty of Finnish foods you could also make. You could also gain more knowledge about the day by reading The Legend of St. Urho.

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