HAVE YOU HEARD OF “I GIORNI DELLA MERLA/THE DAYS OF BLACKBIRD” BEFORE?

HAVE YOU HEARD OF “I GIORNI DELLA MERLA/THE DAYS OF BLACKBIRD” BEFORE?


The days of the blackbird are the 29th, 30th and 31st of January. According to the legend, if these days are cold, spring will be nice/ beautiful, and if they are warm, spring will arrive late.  This is perhaps the closest thing in Italian folklore to the observance of Groundhog Day (February 2nd) in the United States, according to which, if the groundhog sees its shadow, winter will last another six weeks.  If instead it doesn’t see its shadow, spring is on the way.



The legend of the days of the blackbird has its roots in Roman times when in the calendar the month of January still only contained 28 days. According to the story, a blackbird, with her splendid, snow white plumage mistreated/overwrought by January, a cold and overcast month, who amused himself by waiting for her to leave her nest in search of food, and then casting bitter cold and frost onto the Earth.



Tired of the ongoing harassment, one year the blackbird decided to gather enough provisions for a month and closed herself in her nest-lair, taking refuge for the entire month of January, which at the time had only 28 days. The last day of the month, thinking to have outsmarted the wicked January, she left her hideaway and started singing to mock him.



January took such great offence that he asked February (which then still had 31 days) for a loan of three days, and he let rip with snow storms, wind, ice, and rain.  The blackbird took shelter in a chimney and there she stayed sheltered for three days. When the blackbird came out, she was indeed safe, but her beautiful plumage had blackened from the smoke and soot, and despite her efforts to clean herself up, she wasn’t able.



Powerful January was amused by the scene, and then he said in his thundering voice “Let this serve as a lesson to you and to all the animals: You don’t joke with the seasons, with the cold or with the climate.  You cannot make fun of/trifle with Nature.  From today forward, I (January) will have 31 days, and the last three will be the coldest of the year. To remind everyone of this story, the merli (blackbirds) will forever more wear/bear these black feathers.