Cold and wind: we are in the days of the blackbird!

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Days of the blackbird

I days of the blackbird are traditionally the last days of January: 29, 30, 31 January. They are considered the coldest days of winter, but what do blackbirds have to do with it?

In this article

  • The legend of the blackbird
  • The legend of the prediction of spring
  • Local legends
  • The legend of the battlements in the city
  • The legend of Merlo and Merla

The legend of the blackbird

The official legend is this:

The name derives from a legend according to which a blackbird, with a splendid white plumage, was regularly scrambled from January, a cold and shady month, which enjoyed waiting for the blackbird to come out of the nest in search of food, to throw on the cold earth and frost. Tired of the constant persecutions, the blackbird one year decided to make enough provisions for a month, and yes locked up in her lair, sheltered, for the whole month of January, who was then only 28 days old. On the last day of the month, the blackbird thinking she had fooled the bad January, she came out of hiding and began to sing to mock him. January was so resentful that he borrowed three days in February and was unleashed with blizzards, wind, frost, rain. The blackbird took refuge on the sly in a chimney, and remained there in the shelter for three days. When the blackbird came out, she was, yes, safe, but her beautiful plumage was blackened by the smoke and so she remained with the black feathers forever. (Source: Wikipedia)

The podcast with the history of the days of the blackbird

The legend of the prediction of spring

Always according to tradition, a signal to understand what spring will be like is: if the days of the blackbird are really cold, spring will be bright, if the days of the blackbird are hot there will be a spring that will be waiting for you, pay attention to it, often this really happens.

As in all legends A fund of truth is hidden, in fact in the Roman calendar the month of January had only 29 days, which probably with the passing of the years and of being handed down orally turned into 31.

Read also: Candlemas: origins, poems and recipes for February 2nd

Local legends

  • In Cremona and in other areas bathed by the Po, where even the "days of the blackbird" are the last three of January, different legends are told. It is said that a farmer, crossing the great frozen river, with his cart pulled by the mare named Merla, was swallowed by the waters due to the breaking of the layer of ice.
  • A variant of this tradition is that some soldiers would have fallen into the water while crossing the Po, dragging a cannon called Merla. In the Lodi area, where the days of the blackbird are also on 29, and 30 31 January, it is said that in a winter so cold as to freeze the waters of the rivers a young man managed to cross the Adda to go to marry his beloved, but when the young couple walked on the frozen slab of the river to reach their new home, the ice broke and the bride, named Merla, drowned. Then the young man sought her in vain and desperately for three days, which then became, in his memory, the days of the Blackbird.
  • Another story for children linked to the days of the blackbird comes from the banks of the Po river and can be read in the book by Sebastiano Pauli Tuscan idioms sought in their origin from 1740. In this version some Piedmontese soldiers, having to carry a very heavy cast iron cannon. heavy and called Merla because of the dark color from one side of the river to the other, they found themselves wading in very difficult conditions due to the winter frost. They then set about building a bridge made entirely of boats to be able to transport Merla from one side to the other. In the last three days of January, the frost was so strong that it froze the waters: this allowed the soldiers to carry the cannon easily, simply by sliding it on the ice. 
  • A different version tells of a girl who, in order to obtain consent from her parents to marry her lover, slept three nights in the cold on the roof of her house, embracing a fireplace to warm herself up. On the third morning she was found smoked and dead like many dead blackbirds from the cold.

The legend of the battlements in the city

A family of blackbirds, with their young, had moved in the summer to the city but when the cold came, finding food became difficult and so the blackbirds decided to move to a place with a milder climate. During the long and tiring flight the blackbirds decided to take shelter in a chimney but the soot made the blackbirds all black. Only after 3 days, after the cold ones in the chimney, the birds were able to get out and resume their journey.  

The legend of Merlo and Merla

A couple of young blackbirds loved to go dancing on winter evenings, but one evening to take a shortcut, Merla and Merlo decided to cross the river, but the sheet of ice that covered the bed of the Po could not bear their weight and so the two little birds fell into the freezing waters where they died.

Only one other blackbird had seen what had happened and for three days she chirped desperately to passers-by for help. After 3 days the ice melted and the river returned the bodies of the two birds and in that same place flowers blossomed.

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