The Legend of St. Urho
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Laugh away winter blues with St. Urho and the grasshoppers in this book. This half-century old tale of St. Urho continues into the 21st century to delight new devotees. Created in Minnesota by Finnish-Americans Sulo Havumaki and Richard Mattson, St. Urho burst first forth bigger than life in 1956. His fame comes for the ancient heroic deed of driving the grasshoppers out of old Finland to save the grape crop. The Saint’s day is celebrated March 16, a day before another that other legend, St. Patrick who drove the snakes out of Ireland. Sandy Hautanen of Boston has an essay in the book about “The Battle of the Saints” and her experiences as a Finnish-American in the midst of the Irish.
Prof. Börje Vähämaki of Toronto, Canada, in a tongue- in -cheek scholarly, essay compares the Finnish saint and the Irish saint. He notes particular interest in the relationship between the St. Urho legend and the St. Patrick tradition, and correspondingly between Finnish and Irish immigrants to North America with the shared colors of green and purple. He writes, that “ both patron saints chased evil creatures out of their respective lands”…“It is quite possible that Matti Kaups is correct when he writes (Finnish Americana, 1986): “. . . it seems that Finnish ancestry, exposure to the legend of St. Patrick, and residence in the land of such giants as Paul Bunyan and Babe, influenced the inner thoughts and motivated men to perpetuate the anachronistic farce of St. Urho.”
Many creative Finnish-Americans have written poetry about the saint in Finglish, a combination of immigrant English and the Finnish language. Others have composed songs. The Finns everywhere have a 5,000 year old history of writing poetry. This book contains the songs, games and recipes for St. Urho’s day. The most notable promoter of the great Finnish saint is Janice Laulainen with an essay about My Career as St. Urho’s Disciple, primarily at Dayton’s department store in Minneapolis. Janice takes about three hours to decorate her office as well as herself in green and purple each St. Urho’s Day. No one has more fun than Janice, St. Urho’s unofficial historian.
St. Urho also lives in cyberspace thanks to Prof. Michael Holmes of the University of Utah and others. Grasshopper illustrations in the book come from David Fitzsimmons, nephew of Bernhard and Esther Hillila, Michael Croes and Diane Heusinkveld.The compiler, Joanne Asala of Bloomington, Illinois dedicated the book to her Finnish-American father, Ron Asala. Joanne’s mother, Donna, created the St. Urho quilt blocks with hoppers featured on the book covers, depicted along with the existing statues of St. Urho at Finland and Menahga, Minnesota.