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RED LETTER DAY This is why robins appear on Christmas cards and it's not the reason you think

04 Dec 2017, 15:18 ... you-think/

It's not because the hardy birds hang around the UK in winter

A CUTE little robin has been a familiar site on Christmas cards for over a century, often pictured in the snow.

As one of the few birds that doesn’t migrate from the UK in winter, you might think it’s habit of hanging around in the coldest weather was the reason we associate it with the festive season.

The robin has become a familiar sight on cards

But that’s not the real reason that robins have become a symbol of Christmas.

For that you need to go back to the 1880s, and a little known fact about postmen.

Back then, Royal Mail postmen wore bright red uniforms, because the colour red was linked with royalty and the British flag.

Because of this the Victorian posties were nicknamed “robins” after the familiar red-breasted bird.

The British postie wore a red uniform in Victorian times

At Christmas, people eagerly awaited the arrival of cards from loved ones far and wide – delivered by their own local “robins.”

Artists often illustrated Christmas cards with the delivery of letters and one artist decided to draw an actual robin, instead of its human namesake, with a card in its beak.

The idea caught on so quickly that the robin became a symbol of Christmas in its own right.

Other folklore associated with the bird’s red-breast strengthen its connection to the Christmas story.

One legend has it that when Mary was giving birth in the stable, the fire was dying and the robin used its wings to fan the flames.

As he flew close to the fire an ember flew up and made his breast glow red and seeing this Mary declared that the red breast was a sign of the bird’s kind heart and that the bird and all its descendants would wear a red breast proudly from that moment on.

Another fable has it that a bird tried to remove Christ’s thorny crown as he lay dying on the cross, and that some of Jesus’ blood stained his breast

RED LETTER DAY This is why robins appear on Christmas cards… and it’s not the reason you think

04 Dec 2017, 15:44

Just to be pedantic Robins aren't red-breasted, they're orange-breasted. Just because the English language couldn't be arsed inventing a word for a colour until someone turned up with a bowl full of oranges doesn't change that fact.

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