Friday, 3 December 2010

Christmas Robin…

Between now and Christmas I’m going to post some of my favourite festive snow globes. I have a lot of Christmas globes - Santas, Snowmen, Christmas trees, Angels, Reindeer – all sorts.

Here’s a Robin sitting on Holly leaves. The Robin unsurprisingly only became associated with Christmas in Victorian times. The Victorians practically invented Christmas as we know it. Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol, and Prince Albert are probably responsible for most of that invention, but the idea of sending Christmas cards was dreamt up by Sir Henry Cole and John Calcott Horsley who printed them for him. The Penny Black postage stamp had revolutionised the postal service three years earlier and this made the sending of Christmas cards both easy and popular and the streets were soon full of postmen delivering cards.

The postmen wore a red tunic as part of their uniform and were soon nicknamed Robin Redbreasts after the birds. They often worked over the Christmas Holiday and even delivered presents and cards on Christmas Day, and this association soon saw the Robin with his red breast portrayed on early Christmas cards, often with a letter held in his beak and started a popular Christmas image.

Of course Robins are about all year round, often singing throughout the night in the summer and being mistaken for nightingales. But during the winter the red of their breast makes them stand out against the stark winter surroundings persuading us they are more frequently seen in the winter and furthering the Christmas bird association.

There are many superstitions about the robin, even where it chooses to perch when singing is believed to forecast the weather. If it sings on top of a bush the weather will be warm, if it sings from within the branches then rain is on the way.

It’s also thought to be extremely unlucky to kill the bird, not least of all for the poor Robin, and if you kill one you will never stop your hands from shaking again. Another belief is that anyone who breaks its eggs will have something valuable of their own broken.

Ah, the Ruddock, as the Robin was once called, killed by the sparrow, forbearer of debt, tender of the Bethlehem fire, catcher of the crucifixion blood, our national bird, friend of the gardener, and oddest of all - undertaker. Some believe that if a Robin finds a dead body, it will cover it with leaves and moss like those poor children in the fairy story, Hansel and Gretel.

My earliest memories of the Robin are a nursery rhyme my grandmother used to sing to me whenever we saw one in her garden.

The north wind doth blow,
And we shall have snow,
And what will poor Robin do then? (poor thing)

He’ll sit in a barn,
To keep him self warm,
And hide his head under his wing,
poor thing.


  1. I remember it too. I have a real soft spot for robins and they are very friendly and sit alongside you when you garden.

  2. Malcolm Chorley commented on Facebook.

    Two robins in the garden , possibly the first to locate our nest box - yes, its me and on a Sunday too!

  3. Andy Bickerdike commented on Facebook:

    good old robin red breast...

  4. Tricia Kitt commented on Facebook:

    Tricia wrote "aaah! he's cute! I seem to have everyone's chaffinches - never seen so many - am I the only one feeding them?"