Did you know that a robin was present at the birth of Jesus? Word of it hasn’t spread much in Germany yet, but many people in Great Britain probably know the legend: According to it, such a little bird sat in the stable in Bethlehem and felt responsible for the newborn.

When dangerous sparks suddenly erupted from a warming fire, the robin is said to have fluffed itself up in front of the child to protect it so that it would not be injured. The glowing sparks turned the chest of the previously brownish bird red – and since then the robin has looked as we know it.

The legend, of unknown origin and told in different versions, serves as one of several explanations why robins often appear as motifs on Christmas decorations, especially in Great Britain. In the British Isles the animal is omnipresent at Christmas. But the trend is also taking hold in Germany, which prompted the German Wildlife Foundation to issue a press release this week.

Now, during the Christmas season, you can often see robins on napkins, Christmas cups and many other decorative items.

At the same time, however, it is also robin season outdoors: especially during the cold season, the animals can be easily observed in gardens where feeding places have been installed.

If you want to help them and other songbirds in winter, it’s best to provide mealworms, fatty food, raisins or sunflower seeds, animal rights activists advise – at least when it’s cold and the ground is frozen hard. Because then the small birds are unable to use their beaks, which are shaped like tiny tweezers, to pull insects, spiders and worms out of the ground and out of tree bark.

If you look up what the little orange birds are called in English in a dictionary, you’ll find the term “robin”. And around this term lies the second explanation why robins are so popular at Christmas. The British once gave their postmen the nickname “robin” because of their red uniforms.

Because the Royal Mail’s “robins” delivered a particularly large amount of mail at Christmas, the enthusiasm for the eponymous bird probably solidified around the festival, according to several articles.

Regardless of whether the explanation can be found in the Bethlehem stables or in the British postal system – the robin is the quintessential Christmas bird.

Sources: German Wildlife Foundation, “Vogelguckerin.de”, Garden Bird

Our photo series will also get you in the mood for Christmas: We have put together some cookie recipes here. Including cinnamon stars, butter cookies and vanilla crescents.