As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention. Finnish-American department store worker Richard Mattson was well aware of this, having invented St. Urho, the mythical patron saint of Finland whose feast day we celebrate today.
In the spring of 1956, Gene McCavic, one of Mattson’s co-workers at Ketola’s Department Store in Virginia, Minn., asked Mattson why Finland didn’t have anyone like St. Patrick, whose feat of driving the snakes out of Ireland is celebrated annually on St. Patrick’s Day.
Mattson quickly came up with the tale of St. Urho, who saved Finland’s grape harvest (and by association, the country’s wine) by chasing a plague of frogs out of the country using nothing more than his very loud voice. St. Urho gained the strength for this incredible feat by consuming feelia sour (sour whole milk) and kala mojakka (fish soup).
As is the case with many legends, the tale of St. Urho has evolved over time. The plague of frogs is now a plague of grasshoppers, and St. Urho is said to have bellowed “Heinasirkka, heinasirkka, mene taalta hiiteen” (which translates to “Grasshoppers, grasshoppers, go from hence to Hell!”) to scare the grasshoppers into skedaddling.
St. Urho’s Day is typically celebrated by drinking wine, grape juice and purple beer (in memory of the rescued grape harvest), eating kala mojakka, and wearing purple and green. And of course, should you see any grasshoppers, you know what to do.
And kiitos to Tevye’s Song for tipping me off about this wonderful example of DIY mythology.