(Not) The Patron Saint of Finland
December 4, 2017 9:15 PM   Subscribe

In 1956, tired of being hassled by his Irish friends about why the Finns in town didn't have a patron saint to celebrate, Richard Mattson invented one on the spot: St. Urho, whose legend evolved to claim he drove the grasshoppers out of Finland and saved the wine crop, and whose saint's day was celebrated by drinking on March 16 -- right before St. Patrick's Day. His legend has grown and spread across Finnish-American and Finnish-Canadian communities in the upper midwest.

St. Urho drove out the giant grasshoppers by shouting in his great voice, "Heinäsirkka, heinäsirkka, mene täältä hiiteen!" ("Grasshopper, grasshopper, go from hence to Hell!") His feat is celebrated with statues, parades, treasure hunts, polkas, Finnish TV stars, and official proclamations.

Finland does have a real patron saint, Henrik of Uppsala, who may be as fictional as Urho (although with a much more venerable legend!), but if he existed, Christianized the Finns. His feast day is January 19.
posted by Eyebrows McGee (19 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
I am not from the upper Midwest and had never heard of st Urho , this is so neat! I can’t wait to go through all of these links.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 9:44 PM on December 4

Related Finnish-American fakery: Heikki Lunta
posted by elsietheeel at 10:28 PM on December 4 [4 favorites]

posted by mwhybark at 11:38 PM on December 4

Heh, hadn't heard of either St. Urho or Heikki Lunta. The latter is a nice testament to the annoying difficulty of the Finnish language: Hank Snow would more properly translate to Heikki Lumi ("lumi" being the uninflected form), whereas the inflected form "lunta" is used in phrases like "there's a lot of snow", "I wish it would snow", "I'm plowing the snow" etc., still oddly appropriate given the origin story. And to my ear, "Lunta"/"Lunta's" works better in the English lyrics than "Lumi"/"Lumi's" would.
posted by jklaiho at 12:35 AM on December 5 [1 favorite]

/pedantic tone from Otaniemi/

grasshopper has two "s"s in the tags
posted by infini at 12:58 AM on December 5

To be fair, this probably reflects the culture of Finland about as accurately as St Patrick’s Day in New York reflects the culture of Ireland.
posted by Segundus at 1:24 AM on December 5 [1 favorite]

To be fair, this probably reflects the culture of Finland about as accurately as St Patrick’s Day in New York reflects the culture of Ireland.

Oh, absolutely. But to a native Finn, this is delightful, confusing and hilarious in equal measure.

Accurate reflections would be much too melancholy to build celebrations around anyway, though at least there'd be plenty of booze
posted by jklaiho at 1:36 AM on December 5 [7 favorites]

Sounds fun, thanks!

"Many people from Finland started making their way to Minnesota in the 1860s and 1870s due mainly to poor farming conditions in Finland."

And that would be because of the grasshoppers, right?
posted by sour cream at 1:56 AM on December 5 [5 favorites]

Noting that Dr. Sulo Havumäki is cited as a co-creator of St. Urho and that he did this while in Bemidji.
So the whole story is already Fargo-subplot-ready.

Personally, my made up Finnish patron saint would be both all knowing and utterly silent. He would also be a world class tango dancer.
posted by rongorongo at 3:32 AM on December 5 [1 favorite]

I thought the patron saint of Finland was Tom.
posted by delfin at 3:42 AM on December 5 [2 favorites]

Didn't you know Tom was a Tango dancer?
posted by infini at 4:27 AM on December 5

Do we expect St. Urho to make an appearance at the Finnish centennial celebrations tomorrow?
posted by mumblelard at 4:53 AM on December 5

Related: St. Urho's Pub is definitely worth a stop if you're ever in the mood for a beer or two in Helsinki.
posted by jackflaps at 5:42 AM on December 5

As someone from another northern country with a sucky winter saint's day (ffs Andrew, what were you thinking with Nov 30?) I raise a glass to the entirely fictitious saint and springtime festivities.
posted by scruss at 6:38 AM on December 5

I grew up in Minnesota -- German, Irish, and Norwegian, but not a Finnlander -- and I thought that Saint Urho was a legit saint. (OK, legit, albeit probably Protestant, and therefore unverifiable.)

*shrug* I was a kid, I believed a lot of things without bothering to think.
posted by wenestvedt at 9:07 AM on December 5


[Brief note on the Finnish language: Finnish has several fewer consonants than English. Missing are B, C, D, and G. Consequently there are no sounds for those letters, and B becomes P, C becomes S or K, D becomes T, and G becomes K. When Finnish rally drivers talk about transmission problems with their cars, they refer to it as a "kearpox". There are also no articles in Finnish sentence structure -- the, a or an are not part of Finnish grammar.]
As a kid in Minnesota I always wondered why t'ose Finnlanters sountet like t'ey too...and now I know!
posted by wenestvedt at 9:11 AM on December 5 [3 favorites]

Every immigrant community deserves their Cinco de Mayo, St. Patrick's, etc...

I am trying to convince people in Mexico that President Day is the major US holiday, which is celebrated by catching piglets greased with mayonnaise and by wearing stove pipe hats with little drawings of assault muskets.
posted by Index Librorum Prohibitorum at 9:51 AM on December 5 [2 favorites]

As a kid in Minnesota I always wondered why t'ose Finnlanters sountet like t'ey too...and now I know!

Yeah, well, technically all the words with BCDG are loanwords or otherwise based off of foreign languages, but every kid is taught all those consonants at the same time as all the ”native” ones. Speaking Finnish with a really heavy local dialect that erases them seems to anecdotally correlate with the propensity for rally driver English, but you’re gonna have a hard time finding people who learned English from the 90s onwards that would speak like that today, thank God.
posted by jklaiho at 2:09 PM on December 5

Our winery throws a party for St. Urho every year. It is always great fun!
posted by MissySedai at 11:28 PM on December 6

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