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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

The Living on Earth Almanac

Air Date: Week of

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CURWOOD: On the 16th day of every March, folks in Hood River County, Oregon don green and purple colors, throw a parade and yell Finnish chants about grasshoppers, all in honor of St. Urho. According to legends, St. Urho saved the vineyards of Finland from a plague of giant grasshoppers. He banished the bugs with a pitchfork and a few choice words and so became forever endeared to the Finnish people. Now, if the story sounds a little too reminiscent of St. Patrick driving the snakes from Ireland, there's a reason. St. Urho is actually a fabrication of a Finnish store manager in Minnesota. It seems, back in 1956, while taunting his Irish buddies at a party, he invented Urho, the Finnish banisher of poisonous frogs. A co-worker wrote an ode describing how the saint got his strength from fish soup and sour milk. Other locals got in on the action, and soon the frogs became grasshoppers and the joke became an unofficial holiday. Despite his humble beginnings, St. Urho's fame has spread far and wide. A 12 foot statue of the saint stands along the highway in Menahga, Minnesota. There's even a St. Urho's pub in Helsinki. And taking after the St. Paddy's tradition of green beer, purple beer is often imbibed in honor of the fictitious Finnish saint. But if purple beer is unappealing, you can always try the holiday's high test version: mix equal parts green crème de mint, white crème de cacao and light cream to get, what else--a grasshopper! And for this week, that's the Living on Earth almanac.

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