In 1956, while working at the Ketola’s Department Store in Virginia, Minnesota, a coworker asked Richard Mattson why the Finnish didn’t have a patron saint like the Irish did with St. Patrick.
Of course, Finland does have a patron saint, Henry, Bishop of Finland, but that didn’t stop Mattson from supplying one of his own devising: St. Urho.
Urho, he would go on to explain, cast frogs out of Finland with the power of his loud voice and enjoyed drinking sour whole milk and eating fish soup. Later this was changed to explain that he drove away not frogs but grasshoppers with the scream “Heinäsirkka, heinäsirkka, mene täältä hiiteen!” (“Grasshopper, grasshopper, go from hence to Hell!”).
Since this time, St. Urho has grown in legend, and St. Urho fan clubs existed now in Finland as well as the U.S. and Canada, but nowhere is the legend more heralded than in Menahga, Minnesota.
A small town of under 2,000, it boasts not just a giant chainsaw carving of Urho complete with giant grasshopper impaled on a pitchfork (actually a fiberglass copy of the original which is stored in the Menahga cemetery), but hosts a St. Urho’s Day Celebration on March 16th.
Everyone wears royal purple and nile green and chants “Heinäsirkka, heinäsirkka, meine täättä hiiteen.” Other activities for the St. Urho Day festival include the consumption of purple beer, the selection of a Grasshopper King, and planting Cheerios as “donut seeds.”