Wednesday, 19 December 2012

How the robin came to be on Christmas cards


How the robin came to be on Christmas cards. It sounds like the title of one of Kipling's Just So stories. In the beginning, oh best beloved...

I never asked myself why robins and Christmas were inextricably linked but just knew they were, until, when designing my company's e-Christmas card this Christmas, I found (stole, I suppose) a great picture of a robin sitting atop an apple on snowy ground and one of my Romanian colleagues asked, "What has that bird to do with Christmas?"  

That was when I asked myself the same question and this is the answer I found (isn't the internet a wonderful thing?)

Postage stamps were first invented in England in 1841 and in 1843 an Englishman invented Christmas cards. Since not long after that, Christmas cards in England have usually featured the robin redbreast, a bird whose bright red breast perhaps subconsciously suggests the red cloak of Father Christmas. There is an old legend that when Jesus was suffering on the cross the robin, whose breast was in those days brown in colour, flew to Jesus’ side and sang into his ear in order to comfort Him. As a result, the blood from Jesus’s wounds stained the robin's breast and thereafter all robins carry the mark of Christ's blood. However, the robin’s association with Christmas is more prosaic, purely secular and nothing to do with the resurrection or, come to that, Father Christmas. Postmen wore red uniforms in Victorian England and were therefore nicknamed "Robin"; the robin on the Christmas card is a visual pun referring to the postman delivering the card.


  1. Aren't we glad your colleague asked? I didn't know; just always thought them lovely.

  2. Wonderful story! And in spite of not agreeing with you in your political view, I wish you a good Christmas. The robin is very frequent in Norwegian Christmas cards, too! And I love it, because in Norway it often came to feed on food given to them during Christmas when there still were ordinary winters here. But the female robin should have been appreciated more, although she is not red. She is also beautiful!

  3. Thank you. Kind words, despite the political gulf between us. Merry Christmas!