Lancashire Times
A Voice of the Free Press
1:00 AM 11th December 2021

The Nature Of Christmas

photo Ben Andrew (
photo Ben Andrew (
When putting up your decorations or writing your Christmas cards, have you ever wondered why we associate robins with Christmas? Maybe you’ve always contemplated where “the holly and the ivy” came from, or if partridges really do roost in a pear tree. In the run up to Christmas, the RSPB are taking a look at festive folklore and tradition in an attempt to answer: what is the nature of Christmas?

Robins aren’t just for Christmas

Crowned Britain’s National Bird, the robin is a firm favourite amongst the country’s feathered friends, especially at Christmas time.

Associated with Christmas since the 1900s, the relationship between robins and the festive season is inspired by the bright red uniforms of Victorian postmen.

photo Ben Andrew (
photo Ben Andrew (
As Christmas cards arrived through the post, the link was made between the familiar little bird and the spreading of Christmas cheer, which has led to them featuring on many a Christmas card ever since.

As a familiar garden bird to many, robins may be seen all year round, but they are most in need of your help during the winter months when natural food supplies run low, according to the RSPB.

The charity, who have been monitoring trends in garden bird numbers for over 40 years, report that robin numbers are in decline by 32% since 1979, as well as many other of the country’s garden favourites.

Therefore, the RSPB is urging the public to keep their feeders stocked and clean and water baths topped up as our feathered friends head to gardens in search of food and drink.

You can find out more on a number of RSPB reserves this festive season as the charity are running special robin-themed trails and events following the release of Aardman’s delightful Robin Robin film on Netflix. For details of the events, where to visit and more remarkable robin facts, go to

Thankfully, the RSPB are on hand to provide top tips on how to attract robins and other wildlife to your garden as part of their popular Big Garden Birdwatch survey, which last year saw over a million people take an hour to count their garden birds in the UK’s biggest citizen science survey.

To take part in the Big Garden Birdwatch, which runs Friday 28 January to Sunday 30 January 2022, visit or text BIRD to 70030 for your FREE guide, which includes a bird identification chart, top tips for your birdwatch and RSPB shop voucher.

Deck the halls with boughs of holly

photo Andy Hay (
photo Andy Hay (
While you’ve got your eyes peeled for robins, you may notice the holly growing despite the cold weather.

Used as decorations as far back as the Roman times, holly branches were used long before pine trees were introduced as an English festive decoration, with the prickly leaves of holly thought to symbolise the crown of thorns Jesus wore.

Linked to ivy through Pagan Winter Solstice traditions, both plants were used to ward off evil spirits and celebrate new growth. According to the RSPB, this new growth is great for wildlife; the berries provide vital winter food for birds and ivy is a fantastic late season nectar source for insects.

To help nature’s larder go a little further, why not check out the RSPB’s guide to helping the nature on your doorstep by gardening with wildlife in mind here?

A partridge in a pear tree

photo Les Bunyan (
photo Les Bunyan (
A popular Christmas song, a partridge in a pear tree is all about the birds. Sadly, the song title is a little misleading, as partridges are ground nesting birds and so the chances of finding them roosting in a pear tree are very slim.

In fact, over half of England’s most threatened breeding birds nest on or near the ground, and grey partridges are on the RSPB’s red list for conservation concern, and so you’ll be lucky to spot one.

According to the RSPB, 1 in 4 birds are now on this ‘red list’ and at risk of going extinct - to learn more about how you can help these birds, see here.