Wildlife playing a part in Christmas Traditions

During the festive period, wildlife also have an important part in Christmas celebrations around the world and here in the Cairngorms. Whether it’s in Christmas songs, stories, decorations, wildlife has a part in this busy time of year.

Our National Bird – the Robin

Robin in the snow (Kate M)

Birds are often a feature of any Christmas traditions, such as the Partridges in a pear tree, and Swans swimming in the ’12 days of Christmas’ song. In Norway the Bullfinch (Dompap) is a symbol of a traditional Christmas and throughout winter, and here in Britain our much-loved Robin. Whether its Christmas cards or decorations – the Robin has always played a part in British history and its meanings around Christmas.

Norwegian symbol of Christmas – Bullfinch (James Stevens)

Often known as ‘Robin redbreast’ its nickname comes as the first postman in Britain wore a red coat on his deliveries. The colour features on our flag and a symbol of royalty, these postmen were given the nickname ‘Robin.’ Voted as the national bird in Britain, the Robin are a common sight in our gardens.

There is often a saying, “Robin’s appear when loved ones are near.” The true meaning to this is not truly known but people say it has links to their appearance at cemeteries and at times when people are ill. They have quite a relationship with people and often very tame. Their red-breasted appearance now appears on Christmas cards, and decorations especially around this time of year.

Dasher, Blitzen or Rudolph?

Reindeer from the Cairngorms (Photo courtesy of Cairngorm Reindeer Herd)

First featured in a 1800’s poem, ‘A visit from St. Nicholas’ (Twas the night before Christmas) Reindeer have become a main feature in Christmas stories, films and traditions. Most famous for pulling Santa’s sleigh on Christmas Eve, they mainly roam wildly in the northern areas of Europe, Alaska, Northern Asia. Here in Britain, the only herd of Reindeer free to roam the mountains are here in the Cairngorms National Park, introduced here in 1952 by Mikel Utsi and family. At the Cairngorm Reindeer Herd you can visit the reindeer centre or walk up into the hills with rangers to feed these gentle giants up-close and get into the festive spirit.

Red squirrel

Red Squirrel in the snow (Kate M)

Another feature of many Christmas cards, the Red Squirrel, with its distinctive red colour, much like a Robin, is another firm favourite to see in the Cairngorms. With their long ear tufts and long red tail, they are easy to spot jumping through the snow and visiting feeders in the winter months.

You have the chance to see any of these Wintery animals on a Day Guide with us in the new year. Until then, here at Speyside Wildlife we wish everybody a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!