St. Patrick, set down your shillelagh and put up your dukes. Here comes that great grasshopper-driving saint, Urho the Finn, and his day is first.
"St. Urho? It's a little known fact that he drove the grasshoppers out of pre-glacial Finland. It just happens he did it the day before St. Patrick supposedly drove the snakes out of Ireland," said Tom Tikkanen, a Finlander in Calumet.With Tikkanen's guidance, the tiny town on Michigan's Lake Superior shore this week held its first official St. Urho celebration this year. The Oulu Hotshots brought their accordions up from Wisconsin last weekend and Vi Wiitala drove over from Toivola. Calumet partied. St. Urho's Day is Thursday. But the locals don't muddle legend with fact.
Tikkanen said this year's bash started after some Calumet folks trolling Lake Superior with their snowmobiles snagged an old sauna off the bottom and in it was the frozen body of the great saint himself.
"We fired that sauna up and thawed him out," Tikkanen said.
The Irish don't hold a corner on Blarney. The fact is, Urho is fiction from Minnesota.
The legend of the legend is that in Virginia, Minn., a Finnish department store employee named Richard Mattson grew tired of the to-do over St. Patrick in 1956. He made up a St. Urho who drove out frogs to save Finland's vineyards, said Dr. Marsha Penti, an archivist at Suomi College in Hancock, Mich.
The same year, another Finn, Sulo Havumak of Bemidji, Minn., created a St. Urho who pursued grasshoppers with a pitchfork. Havumak had the first St. Urho party and it's this version that has become the legend, Penti said.
"Ever since then, the men and women have gone out and hopped around like frogs or grasshoppers," Penti said.
Well, maybe not.
Urho spread like fire among the Finnish communities in the United States. Governors of all 50 states have signed St. Urho's Day proclamations.