Mid March! A time when the US turns its attention to an important event–a type of March Madness, if you will. People stock up on food, buy special t-shirts, and drink alcoholic libations in mass quantities.  It’s….mnmenurhoside2

St. Urho’s Day: March 16th.

St. Urho (pronounced “oorho”) is a completely made-up saint. Essentially, Finnish Minnesotans were sick of green beer and Irish hoopla in March, and decided they needed their own holiday on March 16th:

“The legend says St. Urho chased the grasshoppers out of ancient Finland, thus saving the grape crop and the jobs of Finnish vineyard workers. He did this by uttering the phrase: “Heinäsirkka, heinäsirkka, mene täältä hiiteen” (roughly translated: “Grasshopper, grasshopper, go to Hell!”). His feast is celebrated by wearing the colors Royal Purple and Nile Green. St. Urho is nearly always represented with grapes and grasshoppers as part of the picture…..

Today, the St. Urho tradition is carried on in many Finnish communities, sometimes as an excuse to add an extra day of rowdy celebration to the St. Patrick’s Day festivities. In many Finnish-American communities, however, St. Urho’s Day is the celebration, and St. Pat’s feast day is merely an afterthought, a day to sleep off the hangover.”

Urho’s victory over grasshoppers is celebrated by this statue in Menahga, MN. A very amazing chainsaw sculpture!

Support  this champion of biological control by drinking some purple wine or purple beer (Ew!) March 16th, in honor of St. Urho’s entomological feat.

This is the 35th year  of celebration of St. Urho’s feat, BTW.

Related post:

Posted by Gwen Pearson

Writer. Nerd. Insect Evangelist. Have you heard the good news? BUGS!


  1. Thanks for this post Bug Girl. I’ve added your link to my celebrations post. Hope you don’t mind. You explained it so much better than I would have. Thanks again…

  2. St Patrick supposedly drove the snakes from Ireland into the sea. In fact, it has barely any reptiles. There are only a couple species of small lizard which live in Ireland (although they’re rare as well, and do much better living elsewhere) as well as a couple of turtles. The climate is not suited to snakes. Snakes can live in areas with cold seasons as long as at least part of the year gets enough consistant warm days and enough sun for them to get by. Ireland doesn’t cut it. Snakes have not lived there in thousands of years.

    However, when I’ve been there I still hear the legend told by my relatives who say he was great to drive out all the snakes.

    However, when this was brought up I asked why they didn’t want snakes. During the bubonic plague when all those rats were spreading disease carrying fleas, snakes would have been something good to have. Like much of Europe, Ireland has historically faced a problem with rodents carrying disease and destroying food.

    Also, Ireland has had more than its fair share of famine and, believe it or not, snakes turn out to be a pretty robust food source. In the American West, during times of food shortages, people sustained their families partially on snake meat. Snakes are muscular and full of protein. If you know what you’re doing, they’re fairly easy to hunt and kill.

    I suppose, driving the snakes out of Ireland would have been a good thing if it was infested with very aggressive death adders or something, but the snakes that are found in Northern European countries don’t tend to be venomous and extremely aggressive anyway.

    Of course, St. Patrick did not actually drive the snakes from Ireland, but if he had, he did them no favors.

  3. actually, the current Irish climate is just fine for snakes. They are tougher than you think!

    Their absence seems like more of an accident of geology and very ancient history–a nice article from the National Zoo:

  4. Snakes represent the pagans as they are seen by the early christians as worshipers of evil. St Patrick Christianized Irland by driving out the heathens, aka Celtic Druids and Wicans. He stamped out the native spirituality of Ireland and enforced the Christianality of the Holy Roman Empire.

    That’s my take on the St Patrick story. Fins went thought the same thing with biship Henry… now a Saint… in 1010…. as he lead Swedish troups to Christianize Finland. I’d rather celebrate St. Urho’s day.

  5. BTW…. I love bugs… My first career was horticulture (20)years. I am very into (nerdelly so) the trivail minutia of historic and scientific factoids.

    sorry if I have assulted you with too much trivia.

  6. well, I did trim your very long copy/paste per the comments policy. But I’m glad you found things interesting!

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