Why are robins so often associated with Christmas? We always receive at least one Christmas card featuring this loveable little bird. In Italy the robin – here simply called “pettirosso” (redbreast) – has special Christmas significance too, and there are several characteristic stories about him. Here is one a local told me:
“The fire was going out in the stable where Joseph, Mary and the baby Jesus were sleeping. Soon only a few embers remained. Mary and Joseph felt cold, but they were so tired that they simply returned to sleeping.
In the stable there was another guest: a little brown bird had flown in when the fire’s flames were still alive. He saw the baby Jesus and his parents, and was so happy at the sight of them that he did not want to fly away.
When the last embers were about to go out the robin thought that the cold would begin to affect the child sleeping in the manger. He, therefore, flew above the last embers and began to flap his wings fanning the embers and trying to get them to glow again. The little brown bird’s chest turned red from the heat coming from the fire, but the robin did not abandon his post. Sparks flew from the hot embers and burned the feathers off his chest, but he continued to flap his wings until eventually all the embers glowed in a beautiful blaze.
The robin’s little heart swelled with pride and happiness when the baby Jesus smiled at him, happy at feeling renewed heat.
Since then, the robin’s breast has remained red as a sign of his devotion to Bethlehem’s new-born child.”
Here are photographs of a robin which flew into our garden during our first Christmas here in 2005.