The St. Urho legend is over 50 years old, growing from humble roots in northern Minnesota. It’s unclear whether the story began in Virginia, MN, with Richard Mattson, or Bemidji, MN, by Sulo Havumaki, but since the Library of Congress lists them both, we’re not planning to take sides.
As the legend goes, St. Urho drove the grasshoppers out of Finland, saving the country’s grape harvest – and thus its wine crop. While this may have striking similarities to the story of an Irish saint who shall remain nameless, it’s clearly superior in a few key ways:
- St. Urho’s Day is celebrated on March 16th – before, and therefore superior to, anything that one might celebrate on March 17th.
- St. Urho saved grapes, ensuring abundance of wine. What could be more important to celebrate than wine? I mean really.
- St. Urho’s colors are royal purple and nile green – two colors, not one. Take that.
To celebrate St. Urho’s Day, Finnish-American towns hold parades, pancake breakfasts, spaghetti dinners, cribbage tournaments, and all sorts of other celebrations. Attendees are decked out in purple and green, surrounded by images of grasshoppers and grapes.
Since the 1950s, the legend has grown beyond Minnesota and is now celebrated in many Finnish communities throughout the United States and Canada. In recent years, the legend has even hopped the pond and has started a following in Finland itself.