In the 19th century, the robin bird started gaining popularity as the most popular Christmas symbol.
These gorgeous red-breasted birds appeared on holiday cards, wrapping papers, and gifts. They were also featured on multiple Christmas postage stamps. And truth be told, they still are in vogue around the winter holidays!
But why the popularity? How did robins end up being associated with Christmas?
The link between robins and Christmas has several origins – some are religion-related, while others are associated with the Royal Mail postmen of the Victorian era.
But, in the end, should we really justify why robins carry the Christmas spirit? After all, they’re charmingly beautiful creatures!
Keep reading, though, as we’ll tell you how the story goes and why robins are now on every illustrator’s mind before Christmas!
Do Robins Represent Christmas?
Robins are associated with Christmas thanks to their distinctive breast plumage. This bird species has a brownish upper plumage and a whitish belly, while the breast and the face are orange surrounded by bluish-gray parts.
Although this plumage coloration is undoubtedly unique, it’s not what links robins to Christmas – at least not fully. Instead, the link comes from a religious tale that traces the origins of a robin’s distinctive orange chest and its importance to people who celebrate Christmas.
Robins – A Symbol of Kindness
Here’s what the story tells. While Mary was giving birth to Jesus, a fire was in danger of going out. Then, out of the blue, a brown bird appeared in the stable and flew straight in front of the fire, flapping its wings.
As the bird was trying to bring the fire back to life, an ember reached the bird and stained its breast bright red. Supposedly, red-breasted birds remained in Mary’s eyes the birds with the kindest hearts. As such, they became the symbol of both Christmas and kindness, and the red breast was passed down to future generations.
However, that’s not the only tale showing the possible origin of a robin’s distinctive breast. Supposedly, when Jesus was dying on the cross, a purely brown robin bird flew to his side. It started singing in Jesus’ ear to soothe the pain and offer comfort. While it sang, the blood from his wounds stained the robin’s breast plumage, and the red-orangish patch became an inherited trait for the next generations.
Robins Delivering Christmas Cards
We can also trace the connection between robins and Christmas back to Victorian times when the tradition of Christmas cards originated.
The first commercial Christmas cards appeared in 1843, and they were delivered by Royal Mail postmen who wore bright red uniforms. Over the years, people started calling them robins due to their distinctive uniforms.
At first, the most popular Christmas cards were those that illustrated the process of delivery, often featuring one of those Royal Mail postmen.
By the 1880s, illustrators switched to portraying the actual robin birds delivering the cards, as they gradually became a symbol of both Christmas and Christmas cards.
This tradition stands until present times, as robins are frequently illustrated on Christmas cards, wrapping paper, baby clothes, and matching winter sweaters.
What Else Do Robins Symbolize?
Robins have been long symbols of happiness, kindness, rebirth, bravery, and good luck.
Moreover, the appearance of a robin in one’s backyard is often regarded as a sign that the loved ones are safe, happy, and at peace. It is also believed that robins may be messengers coming from the beloved people we lost.
No wonder these beliefs produced the well-known saying When robins appear, loved ones are near.
What Is a Christmas Round Robin?
If you’ve never heard of a Christmas/festive round robin, keep reading – you’ll soon learn what an amazing tradition this is!
A round robin is a circular letter that typically accompanies the Christmas card. The letter includes the most important events of the sender’s year.
However, as nice as it sounds, round robin letters quickly became a nuisance, as many senders took advantage of the opportunity to share too many personal details and few references to the ones receiving the letters.
Additionally, people often send Christmas cards to everyone on their contact list, so obviously not everyone is quite interested in learning every detail about someone else’s life, right?!
Still, why not transform writing Christmas round robin letters into a pleasant family tradition? You can write down some things you were grateful for that year and read them at the Christmas dinner. This way, you and your family can share some joy!
You can also limit this tradition to yourself and write the letter for your state of mind. Going through the good and bad things that happen to us over a year can be an enlightening experience!
What Other Birds Are Symbols of Christmas?
Northern cardinals are often associated with Christmas and other winter holidays. They represent hope, joy, and kindness. Alongside robins, northern cardinals are often illustrated on Christmas cards and wrapping papers.
What Animal Symbolizes Christmas?
That’s an easy question, and the answer is reindeer! Like robins, reindeer are present on almost all holiday sweaters, socks, cards, and home decorations.
Not to mention that they’re pulling Santa Claus’ sleigh to help him reach all those kids and bring them what they’ve asked for!