Author: Ylenia Azzaro - JUMP Team (Italy)
Italian folklore celebrates the Giorni della Merla amid hopes for a beautiful spring
One of Italy’s best known legends in winter is about a bird and the last three days in January which are supposed to be the coldest days of the year, the so-called days of the “Merla” (hen blackbird).
According to tradition, if the days of 29, 30 and 31 of January are particularly cold, the incoming spring should be warm and sunny and arrive early. If on the contrary, spring will be late and rainy.
The legend of the hen blackbird
The most popular version tells the story of a white blackbird with her splendid snow plumage tormented by a spiteful January, (which at the time had 28 days while February had 31) a cold and shady month, who enjoyed waiting for her to come out of the nest in search of food to throw cold and frost to the earth.Tired of this endless persecution, one year the blackbird decided to make provisions that would last for a month, and shut herself up for the whole month of January.
The last day of the month, thinking to have outsmarted the wicked January, she left her hideaway and started singing to mock him. January, irritated by the blackbird’s behavior, immediately went to see his neighbor, February, who was convinced to give him three days. To spite those who had made fun of him, during those three days, January took his revenge with snowstorms, wind, ice, and rain.
The blackbird decided to take refuge into an old and dirty chimney and remained there for three days. When she came out, she was safe, but the beautiful plumage had been blackened by smoke.
January, amused by the scene, 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”.