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When a Cardinal Appears…

Cardinals symbolize faith, hope, and love.


Now that Halloween is over, it’s officially time to start planning for Thanksgiving and Christmas. As the holiday season approaches, I’m getting excited about spending time with family and friends and decorating my home for the holidays. (yay!!)

When I think about Christmas, my head and my heart become so full! I love experiencing and enjoying Christmas traditions and festivities with all the people I love. If you know me, you know I’m a total bird nerd, so it’s probably not surprising to learn that one of my fave signs of the season is a bright red Cardinal bird. I live in Illinois and Cardinals are our state birds, so I see them all the time; nearly every time I look out the window, actually! Their gorgeous red feathers stand out particularly well on a snowy or gray winter day and never fail to grab my attention and brighten my mood. They’re one bird that you truly can’t miss!


Cardinals are known to represent faith, hope, and love, which is one reason they’re often found on holiday decorations like greeting cards, wall decor, pillows, wrapping paper, ornaments and more. I paint them often and have used them as the subject matter in a couple of my Christmas prints.

Another reason for my interest in cardinals is that some people and cultures see them as spiritual messengers or even as angels. There’s a saying that goes,

[click_to_tweet tweet=”When cardinals are near, angels are here. Learn what it means when you see a cardinal.” quote=”When cardinals are near, angels are here.”]

which may have been taken from this lovely quote by Victoria McGovern, which can be found in this poem about what it means when you see a cardinal outside your window:

“May you come to find comfort in and remember: cardinals appear when angels are near.

So go now, sit outside and drink your tea.

Keep a look out for the little red bird — It is there, your loved one will be.”

— Victoria McGovern

The belief that Cardinals are messengers from the spirit is not a new one. The word “Cardinal” comes from the Latin word “cardo” which means “hinge or a door”. So the bird was literally named as a representation of a door between the spirit world and the earth. Pretty cool, right?

According to wikinut.com, “The Cardinal has been christened the “Christmas Bird” for its spectacular red color. Legend proclaims that the Cardinal is the symbol of beauty and warmth of the holiday season. A glimpse of this brilliant bird brings cheer, hope, and inspiration on a gray wintery day. This is nature’s reminder for us to focus on our faith; the Cardinal’s scarlet plumage represents the blood of Christ that was shed for the redemption of mankind.”


Cardinals also represent virtue, love, responsibility, and balance. Believe it or not, they’re monogamous birds and mate for life, which can last up to 15 years in the wild. I mean, who even knew bird monogamy was a thing?! If you see a male or a female, you will no doubt see their mate somewhere close by. They truly seem to enjoy each other’s company and echo each other’s songs and chirps as they follow each other around. It’s so sweet! I’ve even witnessed cardinal “couples” at my bird feeder bringing food to each other. This apparent “love” and partnership that Cardinals display explains why Native Americans believe that seeing a cardinal might mean you have a romantic encounter coming your way!


Knowing and sharing stories like these helps us to not only enjoy the season, but it also gives us the opportunity to share and connect with each other in really meaningful ways.  Giving gifts or decorating our homes with mementos and decor that tell a story make the holidays a time to relate to one another on a deeper level. I mean this is what the holidays are about after all, am I right?

Well, whatever you believe about cardinals or angels or Christmas, you can’t deny that it’s truly delightful to look outside and see a beautiful red Cardinal or hear his joyful song and playful chirps. And if you want to believe that he’s a messenger from a lost loved one, I can’t think of a better way to do it.

The next time you see a Cardinal outside your window, remember a lost loved one and smile. They may have just sent you a message of love and hope by way of this charming little bird. Or if you’re single, the cardinal may be predicting that someone special is waiting for you just around the corner.

So, my friend, I encourage you to take some time and really try to be mindful about the season. Decorating and giving gifts with a special story or meaning can help you build holiday traditions and create special memories and moments for you and your family that you can share and revisit time and time again.  

And if you’re looking for a special gift that has a lovely story to go along with it, please check out the Christmas section of my shop, where you will find my new Winter Cardinal poster print well as other wall decor and gift ideas!

Happy Holidays!!

Bonnie Lecat


  1. Roxanne says

    Thank you for sharing your story and work. My brother and I use to love to sit on his porch and watch the birds.. We had all kinds of bird feeders at his house.. But now him and my mom is in Heaven watching over the rest of us. The holidays aren’t so pleasant anymore. My brother passed Dec 26th and my mother July 4th..when I see a cardinal I grin. Reading your story and seeing ur beautiful pictures. Made my day thank you.

  2. Kim wilkinson says

    Me and my husband got married five years ago we knew each other since we were children we both were married previously my husband believes that his mother and my mother that are deceased brang us together and in our backyard we always say to Cardinals and he says that your mom and my mom checking up on us and I do believe that we are 63 and are not just husband and wife we are best friends our joined families are are one big happy family we are so blessed

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