If there’s one creature that is synonymous with Christmas, it’s the nation’s favourite bird, the robin. If it’s not taking pride of place on Christmas cards, it‘s immortalised in plastic perfection on the top of your Christmas cake, or yule log. Christmas without robins is like Christmas without a turkey, but why is this year-round resident such a festive favourite?
Its status as a Christmas card icon is all down to the postmen of the Victorian era, who wore red jackets, earning them the nickname “Robins”. Christmas card artists were inspired to paint their namesake on their cards and so the tradition began.
Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without a robin on your birdtable - or Christmas cards, or wrapping, or cake...
Legends around the bird’s red breast also have a Christmas link. These include the once all-brown bird being stained with blood as it pulled a thorn from the crown of Christ and suffering a scorched breast while shielding baby Jesus from a fire.
Snow seems to getting rarer at Christmas but an icy morning is the next best thing...
The holly and the ivy Wildlife also gets in on the festive spirit when it comes to Christmas carols.
Turtle doves, partridges, geese and swans star in the 12 days of Christmas, but there could be an avian connection to more of the true-love’s gifts in the song: “drummers drumming” could be displaying snipe and “five gold rings” a reference to the marking on a pheasants’ neck.
In December, we couldn’t be further from butterfly season, but one of our garden favourites is inextricably linked with The Holly and the Ivy. The holly blue lays its tiny eggs on holly in spring and ivy in summer and couldn’t survive without these festive evergreens.
The holly (and the ivy) is great for wildlife, including its namesake, the holly blue butterfly (Andy Hay - rspb-images.com)
Holly berries are popular Christmas decorations, but if you have berries of any kind left in your garden, you might receive a very special gift – a flock of waxwings. It is a “waxwing winter” and thousands of these chubby birds, with sibilant sleigh bell calls, have arrived from Scandinavia to gobble their way through our berries.
Kicking up a snowstorm - don't forget to feed your birds in winter when natural food is much harder to find
Underneath the mistletoe The tradition of hanging mistletoe in your house at Christmas goes back to the ancient Druids who believed it possessed magical powers to ward off evil spirits during dark winter days. It’s also a sign of love and friendship - hence the tradition of kissing under the mistletoe.
This parasitic plant also gives our biggest thrush its name. The mistle thrush loves the sticky white berries and in the process of cleaning its beak on a branch, it deposits seeds and does its bit to ensure there is enough mistletoe around for next year’s Christmas party festivities.
Get in the Christmas spiritWhat wildlife is in your mind at Christmas? If you have any Christmas nature connections, we’d love to hear about them.