A week ago I posted the following question on Twitter:
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:
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:
- Urho Kekkonen is the longest serving President of Finland – and is well-regarded in Finland (and perhaps by Finnish immigrants). They even celebrate him at St Urho’s Pub in Helsinki.
- I was told the local Kuopio soccer team was founded on this date (March 16) in 1923; one of the best players in the squad is Urho Nissilä.
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.