Grasshopper smiter is Finnish folk hero

NASELLE - In case you missed it, yesterday should have been a day of celebration for Finns and those of Finnish descent. March 17, is that other holiday, the one the Irish observe, something called St. Patrick's Day.

March 16 is the day Finns celebrate St. Urho's Day. St. Urho? Yes, the mythical figure who drove the grape-eating grasshoppers out of Finland. Grapes? Grasshoppers? In Finland?

Well, the legend goes something like this: Many years ago, there were supposedly wild grapes growing all over Finland. Suddenly, a plague of grasshoppers (locusts) descended on the vineyards and threatened to wipe out the grape crop. What to do? What to do? The Finnish grape farmers worried.

Enter St. Urho, waving a pitchfork, and giving the incantation, "Heinasirkka, heinasirkka, menetaalta hitten," which very loosely translated into English means, "Grasshopper, grasshopper, scoot."

The grasshoppers did, and the legend of St. Urho was born. Tradition says the day of celebration was first established in the town of Virginia, Minn. around 1956. Several different people of that region are given credit for the establishment of that day of celebration. However, no matter who started the tradition, it has now spread to all 50 states and to other countries. The St. Urho's Day celebration nearest to our area is an organized celebration held in Hood River.

The observance closest for this area's Finns to observe was a special presentation of "Shanghaied in Astoria" presented by the Astor Street Opry Company in honor of St. Urho and St. Patrick last Friday and Saturday. The program for that event included a recently discovered poem allegedly written by old Urho himself. The poem written in "Finn-glish" dialect reads:

"Ooksie Kooksie Kollme Vee

Saint Urho is da poy for me.

He chased out the hopper

As big as a bird.

Nefer before have I heard dose verds.

He really told dos pugs of green,

bravest Finn I ever seen!

Some celebrate St. Pat and his snake,

But that Urho poy got what it takes.

He got tall and strong on feelia sour, and ate kolla

Mojakka every hour.

That is why that guy could chase

Those beetles that grew as thick

As jack pine needles

So let's give a cheer in our very best way, on the

Sixteenth of March,

Saint Urho's Day!"

In case you missed it this year, mark March 16, 2005 on your calendar. St. Urho's Day is only 364 days away!

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