There is no St. Urho (pronounced OOR-hoe, with a heavy trilling of the R), but that doesn’t stop Minnesotans from celebrating his heroic deeds. Legend has it that thousands of years ago wild grapes once grew in Finland. (This fact has been proven by studying the archaeological remains of bears.)
When a plague of grasshoppers descended on Finland, Urho drove the locusts into the sea by loudly exclaiming Heinäsirkka, heinäsirkka, mene täältä hiiten (Grasshopper, Grasshopper, get the hell out of here!) and waving his pitchfork. Having conquered the locusts and saved the grapes, he thus became the patron saint of the Finnish vineyard workers.
To honor this great linguistic feat, Finnish women and children, dressed in royal purple, line up along lakeshores at sunrise on March 16th and recite the magnificent Urho’s mighty words. The men, wearing green costumes, gather atop the hills and upon hearing the chant change into purple garb.
When the ritual is over the celebrants dance the polka, drink wine and grape juice, and eat the traditional mojakka (fish soup) that gave Urho the strength to succeed.
Although it has yet to be proven by scholars, some Finns contend that the Irish stole the idea of celebrating St. Patrick, the Emerald Isle’s patron saint, from them. The strongest evidence of this claim comes from the fact that St. Patrick’s Day lands on the day immediately following St. Urho’s Day. Apparently the Irish felt a celebration of their own would be a good reason to party for two days instead of just one.
None of the above tale is true, of course, though the real story behind St. Urho is just as entertaining. Urho was born to Richard Mattson in the spring of 1953 at Ketola’s Department Store in Virginia, Minnesota . Mattson’s tall tales of the Finnish saint who drove the poisonous frogs out of Finland, initially created as a counterpart to the Irish’s beloved St. Patrick, eventually led to actual celebrations in his hometown. The frogs were changed to grasshoppers by Dr. Sulo Havumäki, a psychology professor at Bemidji State University who helped spread the legend.
St. Urho’s Day is now celebrated in towns with Finnish heritage across the United States and Canada — there are even St. Urho’s pubs in Finland — though it is still primarily a Minnesota  thing. Menahga, home to a giant St. Urho statue, has the best-known celebration. Some of the festivities include a costume-changing of the guard, Finnish music, and plenty of mojakka. The highlight of the celebrations in the town of Finland, Minnesota, is the crowning of Miss Helmi — all contestants are male.
Other Minnesota towns that celebrate this holiday include New York Mills, Silver Bay , and Finlayson. It’s now a big enough deal in some towns that celebrations begin on March 15th, while others, for some reason, ignore tradition and hold the festivities on the 23rd. There is more about the heroic saint and the celebrations in his honor at www.sainturho.com .