Today, March 16th, is Saint Urho's Day. Urho, so the story goes, drove the grasshoppers out of Finland. Celebration of his day mysteriously commenced on the day before St. Patrick's Day in Virginia, Minnesota in 1956. While many of the celebrants claim Urho's miraculous conduct saved the crops in Finland some of the more cynical (and more Irish) neighbors regard Urho as a Finlander's ploy to get to the beer a day earlier.
I've known about this Finnish pretender most of my life. Virginia being another 200 miles north of my place on the tundra, just south of the face of the descending glaciers. Virginia, Minnesota is smack dab in the center of the Range. The great open pit iron mines that steeled World War II and the huge steel cars of the 1950's. The Range is a hodgepodge of ethnic enclaves. Serbs here, Italians there, a smattering of Irish and Finns everywhere. These are hard working, blue collar, union member Americans of the Cold War. There was a bar on every corner and a different variety of church on every block. They knew the difference between the Serbian Orthodox and a Croatian Catholic. The Finnish Lutheran Church was different from the Swedish Lutheran Church. And every little town could engage in a blood feud with their neighbors similar to the rage caused by the 1046 occupation of a town in Montenegro.
The Irish, always ready for ethnic bating and a drink or two, celebrated St. Patrick's Day with great gusto. The Finn's not to be outboasted by a few Micks decided to one up the green by finding St. Urho on March 16th. It seems that a few Finns, most likely congregating at a bar, decided that miracles were needed and miracles would be had. One of the Finns, with an oddly Swedish name of Mattson, conjured up the spirit of Urho. And lo his day was one day before Patty's.
The result of this ethnic one-up-manship has not been war. It has been a blending. The Rangers of all breeds start with St. Urho, move on to St. Patrick and are probably looking for an Italian for the 18th to keep the party moving.
Here's to St. Urho and his miraculous saving of Finland from the grasshoppers. Green beer and snake herding tomorrow.