Advent Thought for the Day: 2

December 2nd: Cardinals

I have never seen a real cardinal bird, and yet they follow me wherever I go. On my buying trips in India and China and I can guarantee that almost every product I select, whether it be a bauble, a snowglobe or an advent calendar, will carry a representation of this handsome little bird.

Cardinal birds, also known as redbirds, cardinal-grosbeaks and cardinal-buntings, are most common in the southeastern USA but have expanded their range, even settling as far north as Canada. Only male birds sport the brilliant red plumage which gives the cardinal bird its name. The strong colour is critical to mating success; the brighter the feathers, the more appealing they are to female birds. Like our native robin, males can be aggressive when defending their territory. However they are also social outside the mating season. Images of handsome scarlet males perched on snowy branches are one of the most potent symbols of Christmas in America, just as red-breasted robins are here in the UK.

For fifteen years I spent this particular weekend in the USA, catching up on the retail scene stateside. I’ve skipped the last two years due to budget, but I do miss picking up gifts at Crate and Barrel, Pottery Barn and Williams Sonoma. There is something nice about giving gifts that can’t readily be purchased in the UK. That’s getting more and more difficult as retail becomes more globally homogenous, which I find a bit sad. This week I shall be travelling in The Netherlands and Germany instead, and hope to take in a few Christmas markets. There I can be confident of finding lots of little gifts that retain the uniqueness I am seeking. TFG.