I was never much of a believer in Santa Claus. Logic told me a big man couldn’t fit down a chimney and in the case of our house, he’d burn to death. Plus, my sisters pointed out presents Santa would be bringing to us about a month before Christmas in our garage.
That said, I was much more naïve than most folks I know. I share my birthday with a very important day for Finlanders fondly known at St. Urho’s Day. The only problem, it is quite likely nobody in Finland knows about this rich and important piece of their history.
“Heinäsirkka, heinäsirkka, mene täältä hiiteen” the poem fondly goes. (“Grasshopper, Grasshopper, go to Hell, for those who don’t know Finnish.) Growing up in northern Minnesota, all of my friends seemed to know or at least nod my head when I said I was born on St. Urho’s Day. Never once did it seem odd to me that the holiday landed right before St. Patrick’s day and involved driving grasshoppers from Finland to prevent the grape harvest from being destroyed. I mean honestly, this makes complete sense, right?
Turns out, the entire holiday is a hoax. St. Urho’s day originated back in the 1950s and while there’s some discrepancy about where it originated, it definitely didn’t originate in Finland. What I do know is that when I hit college, folks looked at me a little more strangely when I proudly pronounced I was born on St. Urho’s Day. And, while working in a television newsroom, I was told to attempt tracking down the creator of the holiday for a spoof package we wanted to produce. After looking at my boss with a look of bewilderment, he said to me, “you know it isn’t real, right?” “Of course,” I replied, feeling my nose grow as I spoke.
Today, I accept that perhaps I don’t share my birthday with a national holiday in Finland. But, I take pride in knowing my special day will always involve the Miss Helmi crowning in Finland, Minnesota where local men showcase the best in women’s clothing. I’ve only been to the festival once, and that was to see an unusual parade full of purple and green (the official St. Urho’s Day Colors)… I guess it’d be best described as a mini Northwoods version of Mardi Gras, only rated G for grasshoppers. Plus, it feels good to one up the Irish and their snakes.
So, to my fellow Finlander friends, Happy St. Urho’s Day and Happy Birthday to me!
P.S For those wanting to take a snapshot of St. Urho, head to Menahga, Minnesota where a 12-foot statue of the infamous Saint sits…