The Northern Cardinal: A Beautiful Red Christmas Bird with Symbolism and Meaning

Old World Christmas loves birds, and so do our customers. Consistently, our beautiful glass-blown bird ornaments have been among our best selling ornaments. We have birds that clip on to a Christmas tree branch or another memorable spot, we have bird ornaments that gently dangle, and we have so many owl ornaments that we gave them their own category. We love birds, especially around Christmas and during the dark winter months. Birds, and specifically the cheery red cardinals, are a symbol of hope and joy during the Christmas season. They are a bright spot!

Birds, particularly the red cardinal, carry significant symbolic meaning for many. While some admire their beauty, others perceive them as bearers of spiritual messages. In the quietude of winter, when bird activity dwindles, catching sight of a vibrant red cardinal can feel profoundly meaningful. It's widely believed that encountering a cardinal is a sign that a friend or loved one is safe and content, imbuing the moment with a sense of reassurance. Moreover, such sightings are often interpreted as omens of good fortune, with Native American lore suggesting that encountering a cardinal brings luck within a mere 12 days. Therefore, the red cardinal meaning holds great significance for those who believe in its symbolic power.

It’s been thought that cardinals are messengers from the spiritual world bridging the gap between the physical and spiritual world. The Latin word “cardo,” means hinge, and a cardinal is thought of as the hinge on the doorway to the spiritual world. Other traditions believe the red coloring of the cardinal represents the blood of Jesus Christ, and that the cardinal appears in times of stress and despair to encourage hope and determination.

Cardinals are loyal birds that mate for life. They tend to literally be the early bird showing up first at the feeders in the morning, and again at dusk. Because male cardinals feature the iconic and recognizable red plumage, it is believed they show up in the early mornings and at night to be more inconspicuous. Cardinals love sunflower seeds, and live off of a diet of primarily seeds and grains. Even more rare than the red cardinal is a yellow cardinal. Very rarely the lack of red pigment is replaced by yellow or orange pigment providing an experienced bird watcher with a once-in-a-lifetime sighting.

Usually cardinals are territorial, yet in the winter they congregate together and form flocks. They do not migrate like most song birds do, but stick around, foraging for seeds, until the spring. Once the spring rolls around and mating season commences, cardinals go back to their territorial ways. Bird watchers who keep an eye on these red beauties have witnessed cardinals incessantly attacking their own reflection in a window thinking they are fighting off a potential rival. 

Both male and female cardinals sing. In many songbird species only the male has song, but cardinals communicate with each other through song. Their song sounds like “birdie, birdie, birdie” or “cheer, cheer, cheer,” depending on which region they are from. The female usually calls from the nest requesting food, and the males can have up to a dozen different songs in order to signal their territory or as a mating call. 

The vibrant red of the beautiful cardinal not only makes a fabulous Christmas tree ornament, it is a beautiful sighting in the cold winter months. We have over 15 varieties of cardinal ornaments from the clip-on variety, to dangling, to a clip on cardinal with a feathered tail. We even sell a cardinal tree topper! We are proud of our extensive bird ornament collection, and we love the different varieties of cardinal ornaments we sell. You can also keep the red theme going with our Red Christmas Ornament collection! 

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Written by

Rachael Mitchell

Rachael Mitchell is a freelance writer based in Seattle, Washington, and has over 15 years of writing experience. She’d never be able to pick just one favorite ornament, but narrowed it down to the S’more and Tennis Ball. She always looks forward to s’mores in the summer with friends and family adding gourmet ingredients, and played 4 years of college tennis in the mid-west.

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