Good Luck Red Bird

Dear Reader:

I am not sure where the idea that the redbird (cardinal) brings good luck originated… but I certainly take it to heart.

And we have sure had the redbirds in abundance lately. I always heard that if you blew a redbird a kiss….before it flew away…it would bring you good luck. I know people passing by me walking every day must think I am nuts blowing kisses to the right and left as I go…a kind of “redbird kissing” Johnny Appleseed.

But I am not taking chances….when I was going through chemo and radiation….I looked for redbirds intently and always felt a certain comfort when I found one and blew it a kiss…that somehow everything was going to be okay…and it was….so this gal puckers up on every walk.

Other  theories contend that you should close your eyes when you see a redbird and make a wish….if (and only if) the redbird still remains when you open your eyes…will your wish come true.

The Cherokees believed (because of the color) that the redbird was the daughter of the Sun and as such did have magical powers…to help people grow, nuture, and heal. So I am going to continue to pucker, blow kisses, close my eyes…and hope I don’t bump into a street sign.

Since I grew up in North Carolina…I spent second grade with a red crayon coloring in the state bird…the cardinal. (I didn’t realize how much I missed the smell of crayons until I have started going back in the kindergarten classes with the student teachers. Isn’t it a wonderful smell?) 

 My family moved to South Carolina when I was in high school so I missed all the South Carolina history classes. It wasn’t until college that, as a history major, I took my first South Carolina history course and was disappointed in the Carolina Wren’s selection for the state bird…I still think that… little bird pales beside the cardinal in beauty.

But a few years ago….I decided to help third graders remember the state bird…so I changed some of the lyrics from (“Rockin’ Robin”) to fit the Carolina wren. Lorraine White added the “jive talk” clap motions from “Grease” and we really had fun dancing with the third graders. The lyrics go:

He sits in the treetop all the day long

Hopping and a bopping and singing his song

All the little birds down on PALMETTO  street

Love to hear the WREN go tweet, tweet, tweet!

Rocking Robin….NO! CAROLINA WREN!

Rocking Robin…NO! CAROLINA WREN!

Go Rocking Robin cause’ the WREN  is the bird for us!


In this heartwarming story Nicholas, a little boy, who lives with his grandfather, is staring at the Christmas blizzard coming down that is supposed to set all kinds of snow records. But Nicholas doesn’t care about that…he is worried about the apple tree that he and and his grandfather planted seven months earlier.

“How will it make it through the storm,” asked Nicholas? Grandpa Santos replied that the tree will be standing long after this blizzard…because it was planted well by a little boy and an old man. And besides…Grandpa Santos reminds Nicholas they have another tree to worry about that night…the one waiting to be decorated in the living room.

But suddenly a flash of color catches Nicholas’ eye…he peers thought the blizzard and sees it again…a bright red bird has fallen off a limb of the apple tree. Quickly Nicholas climbs in his coat and heads outside towards the apple tree…the snow is so deep he has trouble standing, much less walking…but still he struggles. By the time he finds the bird…he is almost covered by the snow and appears pink.

Holding him carefully Nicholas slowly labors back to the house. Grandpa Santos scolds him and tells him he could have gotten lost or hurt…but since it is Christmas Eve…all is forgiven. When Grandpa realizes that the bird is a cardinal…his eyes grow wide with disbelief. “I haven’t seen one of those since I was a little boy living in Mexico.” “How in the world did it end up here…not part of its migration path at all…but here you are little red bird.”

Grandpa shows Nicholas how to make a little cage…they then put a bowl of water and a sprinkling of birdseed in the cage. Grandpa Sanos then adds, “When you do a good thing…Nicholas… good will come back to you.” (“What you did this Christmas Eve was very good…but sometimes you have to wait on it to come full circle…but the good always returns.”)

 The next day, Christmas morning…the cardinal wanted to get out and fly away. Nicholas wonders if it will remain in Sawtooth Ridge…but Grandpa doesn’t know. With unwrapped Christmas presents still waiting to be opened…Grandpa and Nicholas take it outside and watch the cardinal fly straight to the little apple tree, wave, and fly off. “Merry Christmas” Nicholas whispers.

Nicholas watches the apple tree all winter but no cardinal returns…”He must have found his way back home…but weren’t we lucky Grandpa that we got to see one?” 
“Yes, indeed”….replied Grandpa hugging little Nicholas.

Many years have come and gone now. Nicholas is a grown man. Grandpa Santos died twelve years ago. There has never been another blizzard on Christmas Eve in Sawtooth Ridge.

But still people come from far and wide to see the apple tree that Nicholas and Grandpa Santos planted all those years ago. But not because it is old…because of something else.

From a distance…the tree looks like it is full of apples…it isn’t though. No one knows why it happens. And no one knows when it started (Except Nicholas)…Because every Christmas Eve, his apple tree…fills with beautiful cardinals!


 “The good always returns.”

While researching this little story…I found a beautiful thing…a little teacher in Kansas read this story to her children and then they made a tall paper mache tree and filled it with red construction paper cardinals…one for each child. This committed young teacher also gave each student a gift for Christmas that she had made one by one….a knitted red cardinal to put on their Christmas tree. Wow! I have no doubt that “good” will find this dedicated teacher.

If you have never read A Redbird Christmas by Fannie Flagg…then you are missing a treat! Let me just tell you how the story begins:

Oswald Campbell doesn’t have much to live for, except to cash his paltry pension check, drop in on the occasional AA meeting, and visit the VA hospital. Dreading another winter in Chicago, he takes in stride the news that his emphysema will probably take his life before Christmas. Having no family except an ex-wife, who has since moved on, Oswald follows his doctor’s advice and spends his final months in a more comfortable climate. By chance, he ends up in Lost River, Alabama

And don’t we know just when we are completely “lost”… too like poor Oswald… that is the time when God winks and life begins again….a touching story that you will never forget…and a priceless Christmas treasure!

For months I watched redbirds gather on the top of my car on a daily basis…the strangest mystery…I tried several times to capture it in a pictures but never could get close enough…and then two weeks ago…I broke down and washed the car…and guess what? No more redbirds…I jinxed something. (Moral of the story…don’t wash your car!)

Doodle decided to ensure my “good luck” with a redbird she got for me Christmas before last…now I am covered…even in inclement weather or birdless sighting outings…many evenings I lie on the sofa and blow the cardinal a kiss!

So until tomorrow….do good because it will come full circle…and blow a redbird a kiss and a wish!

“851 Tales Left to Tell” 

About Becky Dingle

I was born a Tarheel but ended up a Sandlapper. My grandparents were cotton farmers in Laurens, South Carolina and it was in my grandmother’s house that my love of storytelling began beside an old Franklin stove. When I graduated from Laurens High School, I attended Erskine College (Due West of what?) and would later get my Masters Degree in Education/Social Studies from Charleston Southern. I am presently an adjunct professor/clinical supervisor at CSU and have also taught at the College of Charleston. For 28 years I taught Social Studies through storytelling. My philosophy matched Rudyard Kipling’s quote: “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.” Today I still spread this message through workshops and presentations throughout the state. The secret of success in teaching social studies is always in the story. I want to keep learning and being surprised by life…it is the greatest teacher. Like Kermit said, “When you’re green you grow, when you’re ripe you rot.”
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6 Responses to Good Luck Red Bird

  1. Shirley says:

    What about kissing, unaware that cardinal had just flew by? Is that a sign of good luck for the two?

  2. Sandra Inman says:

    Most wonderful tale. I grow up ;in North Carolina and live in Charleston SC now. Thank you for that wonderful fable! Light of the day is bright of memories of my home in NC!

  3. Hi, after reading this amazing article i am also glad to share my familiarity here with friends.

    • Becky Dingle says:

      Thank you Barierki for your nice comments. It is so sweet of you to take time out to let me know that you liked a particular blog post. It means a lot to me. Hope to hear from you again soon!


  4. Pingback: The Luck of the Redbird…Again! | Chapel of Hope Stories

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