The Symbolism of Cardinals in Grief and Cultures

Most Recent Posts

Alecia Milano
Posted by Alecia Milano on October 24, 2023

When we lose a loved one, it’s hard to not see or hear them in everyday instances. And in many cases, it’s these occasions and signs that help us stay connected to our friends and family who have passed on.  

Can you think of a symbol that connects you to your loved one?  

For many, the cardinal is that symbol. Known for their bright red feathers and durability, cardinals are believed to carry messages from our loved ones, offering a little bit of comfort to those left behind. Continue reading to learn more about the symbolism of cardinals across cultures and seasons.

What Does a Cardinal Symbolize? 

Cardinals, with their distinctive appearance, have long held symbolic significance in various religions and traditions. To truly appreciate the meaning of a cardinal, it’s important to understand its symbolism in both nature and across cultures. 

Cardinal Symbolism in Nature 

In nature, the cardinal is known for its vibrant red feathers, which are often associated with passion, energy and vitality. Cardinals are also popular for their melodious songs, while their presence in gardens and woodlands adds a touch of brightness to landscapes. 

cardinal image

One of the cardinal's unique traits is its tendency to stay in its territory throughout the year, including during the winter months. This loyalty can be seen as a symbol of resilience and endurance, teaching us to persevere even in the face of life's challenges. 

Cardinal Symbolism in Various Cultures 

Beyond their natural symbolism, cardinals hold diverse meanings in different cultures.  

  • Christianity. The cardinal is often associated with the blood of Christ due to its red color. As such, it can symbolize spiritual vitality, resurrection and the promise of eternal life. In Catholicism specifically, cardinals are named after the head bishops. Cardinal bishops have worn bright red robes and hats since the 6th century. 
  • Native American Cultures. In Native American cultures, cardinals are seen as messengers from the spirit world. They are believed to bring guidance, protection and comfort to those in need, especially during times of grief and loss. 
  • Asian Cultures. In Japan, the cardinal is a symbol of good luck, happiness and devotion in marriage. In China, the cardinal represents joy and positive relationships. 

How Cardinals Can Help With Grief 

Grief is a deeply personal journey, often accompanied by feelings of sadness and loss. During these difficult times, many find solace and unexpected comfort in the presence of cardinals.  

Cardinals are known for their resilience and their ability to thrive even in the harshest of conditions, including the cold winter months. Their coloration is often interpreted as a symbol of the love we share with our departed loved ones. 

One common narrative is that cardinals are believed to carry messages from loved ones who have passed away. Whether it's a cardinal visiting a garden or perching near a window, these moments are seen as a means of communication between this world and the next. 

>>> Related Resource: 4 Ways to Cope with Grief Around the Holidays  

The Meaning of Cardinals at Christmas 

During the holiday season, cardinals take on a special significance and are often referred to as "Christmas cardinals." This nickname arises from their striking resemblance to the reds and greens commonly associated with Christmas decorations and imagery. Their presence in winter landscapes, adorned with white snow, enhances the visual appeal of the season, evoking feelings of warmth and nostalgia. 

cardinals at christmas

For many, the sighting of a cardinal during the winter months is a heartening experience. It's as if nature itself is sending a message of hope and joy during a time when the world can feel cold and desolate. Their cheerful presence echoes the sentiments of the holiday season—love, unity and the promise of brighter days ahead. 

In North America, cardinal-themed decorations such as ornaments, wreaths and greeting cards are commonplace during the Christmas season. These accents not only add a touch of natural beauty to festive décor but also serve as a reminder of the connections we have with our loved ones, whether they are with us or watching over us. 

cardinal themed gifts

>>> Our gift shop is full of beautiful cardinal gift items. Visit us any time Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for all your Christmas Cardinal décor needs.  

Cardinal Memorialization Items 

From cardinal-inspired designs for headstones to cardinal-themed decor, the following elements offer a thoughtful way to honor and remember those who have passed away. 

Cardinal-Inspired Designs for Headstones 

For those who have found solace and meaning in cardinals, incorporating these birds into a loved one’s headstone design can be a meaningful way to honor their life.  

Cardinal-themed headstone designs often feature etched cardinal images or a carving of the bird into the actual stone. 

Cardinal Memorialization Items 

Cardinal-themed decor, gifts and keepsakes also offer meaningful ways to cherish the memories of loved ones and find peace in their absence. 

From ornaments and candles to artwork and jewelry, these memorialization items offer a way to embrace the spirit of those we hold dear, particularly during the holiday season when the need for connection and remembrance is most apparent. 

>>> Related Resource: 6 Ways to Decorate a Memorial for Christmas 

Get Cardinal Symbolism Updates & Grief Support

Looking for more ways to honor your loved ones and find support during times of grief? Sign up for our monthly newsletter to discover additional symbols like the cardinal that can help you throughout the memorialization process.  

memorialization and grief resources

Topics: Grief

Recent Posts

subscribe to blog

Follow Us