In the bleak Midwinter

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View from our front balcony

This day of the year (February 1st) is one of my favorite days . You are caught between two traditions I have grown up with: the so-called “blackbird days” (I giorni della merla), Jan. 29th, 30th and 31st (presumably the coldest days of the year) and Candelora (Feb. 2nd), when according to the saying: “se nevica o se plora dell’inverno semo fora” (if it snows or if it rains we are out of Winter).

The “blackbird days” draw their name from a legend I like to tell my little daughter: once upon a time, a Winter time, a white blackbird (an oxymoron in English, isn’t it?) and her little ones found a shelter into a chimney, in order to avoid the cold temperature outside. When they flew out, on February 1st, they had all turned black because of the soot (!).

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View on a piece of a Winter Italian sky

Candelora, instead, is a religious festivity (the presentation of Jesus at the Temple), which owes its name to the tradition of blessing candles (candele in Italian), a symbol of Jesus, “light of the people”. I still remember relatives in the countryside, using blessed candles at home while praying for a special miracle to happen (a healing or a good crop).

And my grandfather Carlo, when I was a child, repeating the old saying as his grandfather – I’m sure – had done:

« Per la santa Candelora
se nevica o se plora
dell’inverno siamo fora;
ma se l’è sole o solicello
siamo sempre a mezzo inverno

For Holy Candelora, if it snows or if it rains we are out of the Winter; but if the sun shines bright or dim we are  still in Midwinter.

I tried to take a picture of a blackbird in our yard – usually there are plenty – but I couldn’t find any today (never a blackbird around when you need one!).

However, while taking a photo of our bare maple tree, I realized that it has its first sprouts on.

How right is my beloved Shelley: “If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?”

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First sprouts on our maple tree facing the street

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