Many signs of spring usually appear in nature around the end of March or early April. March 25, called Marja’s Day or “the red-berry day”, was considered a particularly important day in this regard. The day’s name comes from the Virgin Mary (Maaria or Marja in Finnish, “marja” also means berry), who replaced the ancient mother of life and sun-goddess Päivätär during the Middle Ages. In the reconstructed proto-Uralic mythology the mother of life is associated with the sun, south and water birds. She sends the spring every year to the world with the returning migratory birds.
On Marja’s Day the warming weather had made paths and ice roads increasingly difficult to travel. Hence sleighs were often not used after this day. The amount of daylight had increased to such an extent that people no longer burned shingles for light. Instead they rose up, and went to bed according to cycle of the sun. The day was rather long, but it was separated into two halves by a resting period after lunch. Starting from Marja’s Day it was also customary to eat small extra snack each day – called crow’s bite. It was eaten first thing the morning before singing birds could “ruin” the hungry person.
In Ingria people ate cranberries on Marja’s Day and played fun games outdoors. Vitality and vigor displayed on Marja’s Day meant that the person would feel strong throughout the summer. The day was also associated with fishing, because spike spawning began around this time, and fresh fish was reintroduced to the diet. It was said that eating fish on Marja ensured good fishing luck for the whole year. Fish traps were also decorated with fresh twigs to increase their luck. It was also said that twig cut from a bird cherry on Marja’s Day would make a good whip because it never made the horse tired.
Marja’s Day predicted the weather for the coming spring and summer in countless ways. Beautiful, bright and warm Marja signified an excellent spring and summer. In contrast, the appearance of mosquitos before Marja meant long and chilly spring and delayed summer.
The day was also said to predict the melting of the snow. It was said that the amount of snow that was on the roof on Marja, would be on the fields and forests in late April or early May. These predictions of course differed depending on the geographical region. It was also said that if the ground is not visible on Marja’s Day, there would certainly be no summer in April.
The wind of Marja was said to last for the whole spring. Thus, if the night before was cold and the wind blew from the north, there would be more chilly weather, poor berry year and lousy harvest. On the other hand, warm south wind on the night before Marja meant quickly arriving summer. Another sign of a good year was bright starry night before Marja’s Day. #taivaannaula #suomenusko #finland #finlandphotos #spring