Searching for St. Urho – the patron saint of Finland

A week ago I posted the following question on Twitter:

An unscientific survey: What is the name of a saint, celebrated in March, who is known for banishing pests from their country? (Patrick, Urho, Ur-who?)

A bit of context.  St. Urho is the so-called patron saint of Finland, who saved Finland from a scrouge of grasshoppers.  It is celebrated on March 16, the day before St. Patrick’s Day.

I grew up in Northern Minnesota, which has one of the largest enclaves of Finnish immigrants to the United States. Growing up I remember people wearing purple on St. Urho’s Day, as a point of Finnish pride. Finland, Minnesota has an annual celebration

To be honest – St. Patrick’s Day was just that … a day.  I would call it good if I was able to eat a bowl of Lucky Charms cereal on that day.

Reading the history of the St. Urho’s day, it doesn’t take long to see that, this holiday is decidedly a modern fictional creation.   Perhaps some of you reading this may laugh and scoff at those silly Rangers (people from the Iron Range in Northern Minnesota).

However since I am in Finland this spring, I decided to pose this question on a local Facebook community group in Kuopio:

I asked a local facebook group if they celebrate St. Urho in Finland.

Being in the time of COVID, this was the best that I could do in terms of local, on the ground research.

Here is why I am interested in this question.  I know that immigrants adapt elements of their home culture in unique and perhaps distorted ways.  Very rarely does the home culture re-appropriate those elements.  St. Urho’s Day would be a unique case where this occurs.

Posting to the facebook group exceeded my expectations. (This is a very positive facebook group in general.)  Someone even pointed to a documentary made by the Finnish TV service about Finland, Minnesota.

The general sentiment is St. Urho- as I know it – is not celebrated in Finland, but several people seem to be interested in the holiday.  (As someone said – if it gives you a reason to celebrate, why not?)

And perhaps a “Saint Urho” may not seem that farfetched and could have its own mythology:

Coincidence? Perhaps not.

I may have unintentionally started a new holiday in a country that I am visiting. If that is the case, I declare it probably should have a unique pastry associated with it.  I would certainly welcome an encore performance of the Runeburg torte or laskiaispulla (perhaps with blueberry?)

So whether or not you choose to celebrate St. Urho (or it’s more well-known cousin) St. Patrick, I wish you a happy spring. Lord knows we all need it after this past year.

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