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South of the Boarder: St. Urho Day celebration in Whitlash, 2019


March 11, 2020

The Whitlash church celebrated a combined St. Urho /St. Patrick Day on Sunday, March 17, 2019. John Maatta (center of photo in robe and crown) played the part of St. Urho, the mythical saint who ran the grasshoppers out of Finland and saved the grape vineyards. Maatta, of Finnish descent himself, demonstrated how the mythical saint commanded: "Heinasirkka, Heinasirkka, Mene Taalta Hiiteen!" (Grasshoppers, grasshoppers, Go away!)

Columnist's note: A couple of years ago I read about the annual March 16 celebration of St. Urho's Day in Butte. St. Urho Day celebrations occur in regions of the U.S. where Finnish immigrants live. The fact that it is celebrated the day before St. Patrick's Day is not coincidental. The idea of a St. Urho's Day celebration began when a Finnish American was chided by a friend of Irish descent who said, "Too bad the Finns don't have a saint they can celebrate." That remark resulted in Richard Mattson's retort, "We do have a saint..." And then Mattson and other Finnish Americans created the st...

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