How the Robin Became a Symbol of Christmas
To celebrate the launch of our Robin Gift Box, we have put together an article on our favourite festive friend!
The robin is one of the most common and best-loved garden birds in the UK. Contrary to popular belief, both males and females sport the characteristic red breast, although young robins only develop the colouring as they get older. Robins sing all year round, working to defend their territory (which they do fiercely) and to attract a mate. Making their homes in woodland, parks, hedgerows and many a garden, robins can be spotted during every month of the year.
So, if we’re as likely to see a robin in summer as we are in winter, how did the bird come to be a symbol of Christmas? There are countless robin gifts, cards, decorations and even Christmas jumpers and the festive season doesn’t feel like it’s started until we see a red breasted robin in the garden. There are a number of theories as to why.
Some fables link the robin to Christianity. The story goes that the robin was once a plain, brown bird. The bird went to sing to Jesus who was dying on the cross. Blood from Jesus’ wounds then stained the breast of the bird and from that moment on, the robin passed its red breast down through the generations.
Another legend places the robin at the birth of Jesus. On a chilly night in Bethlehem, a brown bird fanned the flames of a fire to keep the baby Jesus warm. Scorched by the fire, the breast of the bird turned red forever more.
However, it seems like the real reason for the robin’s association with Christmas can be traced back to Victorian times. Victorian postmen wore red coats. When Christmas card giving became popular in the mid-19th century, these “red breasted robins” could be seen going about the streets delivering festive well-wishes. Robins soon came to be featured on the Christmas cards themselves, often with a letter in their mouths, as a representation of the postmen who delivered them.
Whatever the truth behind the legend of the Christmas robin, the bird is a welcome sight in our gardens at any time of year. The species is thriving, with a 45% increase in the robin population recorded since 1970.
This is good to see as the robin experiences a high mortality rate. Many don’t make it through the winter due to a scarcity of food. A garden supply of winter bird feed can really help the robin to survive a particularly cold spell of weather. With some fatty and calorific seed mix on offer, those red breasted robins will be regular garden visitors throughout the festive season.
Love Robins? Check out our Robin Bird Seed here in our Winter Bird Seed Box