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Lake Norden residents celebrate St. Urho's Day with a parade. Photo by Patti Andrews.
Lake Norden residents celebrate St. Urho's Day with a parade. Photo by Patti Andrews.

Saint Ur-WHO?

Mar 14, 2013

 

This weekend, many South Dakotans will honor a very special holy man. But his fame is limited — you won’t find him in Butler’s Lives of the Saints or any other hagiography, and the Vatican doesn’t claim him. His accomplishments are limited to ridding one little European country of an animal plague. Of course we’re referring to St. Urho of Finland. 

Urho’s a manufactured saint — Minnesota Finns dreamt him up in the 1950s to show up the Irish and their Saint Patrick. Their legend states that St. Urho was a hardy fellow, a voracious eater of kalla mojakka (fish head soup) and sour buttermilk. When Finland’s grape crop was threatened by grasshoppers, Urho saved the day. He banished the pests with a simple chant, “Heinäsirkka, heinäsirkka, mene täältä hiiteen.” (Non-Finnish readers, that’s “Grasshopper, grasshopper, go to hell.”) The insects obeyed, the grapes were saved, and wine flowed for everyone.

Phony or not, Finnish Americans embraced the saint. Now St. Urho’s Day celebrations occur all over the country each March 16, incorporating fun, Finnish foods, and St. Urho’s official colors, Nile green and royal purple.

If you would like to participate in St. Urho’s Day festivities here in South Dakota, you’ve got two options this Saturday. Lake Norden will hold their annual parade at 11 am on Main Avenue. It’s followed by a potluck and a special program at the Community Center. Frederick, South Dakota also observes St. Urho’s Day with Finnish foods like mojakka (beef soup), lihapiirakat (meat pies) and Finn bread. There’ll also be a wine tasting exchange, where participants of drinking age bring a favorite bottle of wine for others to sample. Join in the fun at Frederick's Community Center from 6-8 pm.


 

Mojakka: A Finnish Favorite 

This recipe comes to us via Heidi Marttila-Losure, a Frederick native and the editor and project administrator of Dakotafire Media, a journalism project that focuses on the rural issues facing the James River watershed area of North and South Dakota. Marttilla-Losure told us the secret of making mojakka: "Do not use flour when you brown the meat. Just brown it in butter. If you use flour, you might make a fine soup, but it won’t be mojakka. The clear broth and the rutabaga are its key characteristics."

1 1/2 to 2 pounds beef stew meat
2 tablespoons butter
6 cups water, broth or a combination
1 medium onion, chopped
2 teaspoons whole allspice
6 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
1 large rutabaga, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon salt 

Brown meat in butter. Place meat in stock pot with water, onion and allspice. Bring to a simmer. Stir in the potatoes, carrots, rutabaga and salt. Replace lid and simmer on medium-low until vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes.

Some variations on this recipe include adding garlic, bay leaves or celery.

 

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