I couldn’t help but feel pleased and a little camera happy when this little chap made a come back to my garden the other day. I’m not totally sure that it’s the same Robin who sang at the top of his voice, at the top of the tallest tree, first thing in the morning and last thing at night throughout the spring and summer months, staking his territory by showing off his fine red breast, but I guess it could be. Although some robins migrate, the majority will stay within a short distance.
There is something so comforting about this quintessentially British little bird. One of my earliest robin memories is of the one that used to happily hop around in the garden whenever my mum started digging, eagerly awaiting a juicy worm as she turned over the soil. In fact, when I saw my Robin in the garden the other day there was a brief moment when I felt like it was the same one, but perhaps it was just the memories that it invoked and a reminder of the circle of life both in the natural and the human world. My Mum loved Robins and after she died I found quite a few of her own robin memories tucked in various books, some of which I kept to continue their journey as I continue mine.
When the first Christmas cards were sent in the mid 18th century they were delivered by postmen wearing bright red jackets and these postmen were nicknamed Robins or Red Breasts. Robins soon appeared on Christmas cards representing the Posties doing their seasonal round. The Robin is really more orange breasted than red but the word orange didn’t exist in the English language until the 16th century when the fruit (and the word) were introduced to the country.
There are a few different fables as to how the Robin got its red breast but this was my favourite: ‘When the baby Jesus was lying in the manger, the fire that kept him warm began to burn too hot and fast, a brown Robin noticing that Mary was distracted, placed himself between the fire and the face of baby Jesus. He puffed up his feathers to protect him but in so doing his breast was scorched by the fire. This redness was then handed down to future generations of Robins.’ An interesting tale.
In the 1960’s the Robin was voted Britain’s favourite bird and in 2015 he found himself alongside nine other finalists as they competed during a poll for the title of ‘Britains national bird’ and I think we all know who claimed the crown. The lead up to Christmas wouldn’t be the same without a few Robins appearing here and there, whether on a card sent or received, a decoration on the tree or just as a friendly welcome visitor in a snow-covered garden.
Look out for a Christmas Robin and see what memories he brings for you, oh and don’t forget to put some food out for the friendly chap.. life can get quite tough during the winter months for this little Christmas Bird.
Love Alison x