As I sunbathe in a bikini on my patio, my mother, at the other end of the line, informs me it’s about to snow back home. It makes feel slightly guilty for enjoying the warmest winter California has on record and it also reminds me that, in Italy, these days are called “Blackbird’s days” (I giorni della merla).
I would often hear old women refer to the last three days of January as Blackbird’s days, to signify the coldest days of the year, but I never wondered why they were so called. So, still clad in my bikini, I logged on an Italian search engine and started comparing hypothesis.
In the historical realm, it’s said that the Army had to ferry a large cannon named “Blackbird” over the Po river and they waited until the river was completely frozen over and could support the weight of the weapon. More romantically, legend has it that a female blackbird, to shield her white chicks from the bitter cold, took refuge inside a chimney, re-emerging on February 1, the chicks completely black. As charming as this sounds, I doubt there is any veracity – who would be observing blackbirds in the middle of winter?
“Why don’t you ever come visit at Christmas?” whines my mother.
I think of the blackbird, inhale the balmy air and shake my head. Fat chance.