With the cold weather and predictions for snow the best place to be this weekend may be inside. At least that’s what they think about the end of January in Italy. In Northern Italy the last 3 days of January are called giorni della merla “Blackbird Days”. They are the coldest days of the year and according to an Italian legend the reason is due to the actions of a female blackbird, la merla.
La merla attempting to outwit the frigid god of January collected food throughout December to avoid the cold weather of January. On January 28th, the last day of the month (at that time the month of January had 28 days), she ventured out to confront the god of January saying “I’m so smart and clever. Here it is the end of the month and I didn’t have to go outside and freeze my tail feathers off to collect food. I fooled you!” The god of January was not amused by the impertinence of la merla. He called out to the god of February and asked to borrow 3 days which he added to the end of the month.The pitiful la merla took refuge from the bitter cold in a chimney for the extra 3 days of January. When she flew out of the chimney into February her once beautiful white feathers were black from the soot and smoke, which they remain to this day.
The legends and lore of the Blackbird Days can be shared with a book written by children’s author Tomie di Paola. The Days of the Blackbird uses many Italian words and phrases and has whimsical illustrations of Northern Italy for a great bedtime read with the kids (ages 5 and up).