IrishVirus 300x177 St. Patrick . . . Or St Urho?St. Paddy’s Day

Almost everyone in America is familiar with celebrating St. Patrick on March 17th.  This is the time set aside to celebrate the patron saint of Ireland who supposedly drove out all the snakes (or the Devil, whichever you choose to believe).  This is the day when both the Irish and non-Irish clink together their glasses of green beer and shout “Erin Go Braugh” as an excuse to skip work and act like an idiot for 24 hours.

Although I’m from  Savannah, Georgia – home of the 2nd largest St. Patrick’s day parade in the USA – and only a smidgen Irish (my great-grandfather on my Mother’s side sailed from County Cork), I still remember the happy times I spent in the 60’s and 70’s watching the parade from my father’s office next to the parade route while the adults drowned in Irish coffee or green beer.

Da Ting Is, Laddy…

There’s this official holiday on March 16th to honor St. Urho . . . the patron Saint of Finland!  So which one do you want to celebrate?  Both, of course!!

While the Irish charge that the Finns (especially those in Minnesota) made up the holiday to beat St. Patrick to the punch and get an early start on the festivities, the fact is that St. Urho was a real person.  Although – as with St. Patrick – its impossible to separate St. Urho facts from St. Urho fiction, here are the “facts” according to 

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

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

Enter our great Finnish Hero, St. Urho!  Waving his pitchfork and chanting “Heinasirkka, heinasirkka, menetaalta hiiten” (which in English means “Grasshopper grasshopper skoot!”) 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 framers (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 celebrate 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. Women and children go down to the lakeshore and chant “Heinasirkka, heinasirrkka, meine taatta hiiteen” just like St. Urho did thousands of years before or “Grasshopper, Grasshopper getta outta here” if you don’t speak Finnish. (After all it’s pretty easy to remember.)  The men dress in green and gather at the top of the hill and then start a procession down to the lake kicking and waving pitchforks to scare off the imaginary grasshoppers.

No one is exactly sure when or how, but along the way the men change into purple clothes.  (I assume they use a fashion technique called “the layered look.”)  Otherwise, use your imagination on the wardrobe change! <wink>

The celebration also includes singing, dancing polkas and drinking wine . . 

There was more to this story, but you get the idea . . .

Anyway, have a HAPPY ST. URHO’S DAY!!  And may your St. Paddy’s celebration also go well . . .