We see cardinals are everywhere during the holiday season—on Christmas cards and holiday wreaths and nestled in decorations. If you’re fortunate enough, you might catch a glimpse of one outside.

The female is a soft, warm tan color with a bright orange bill and red edging to the wings and tail while the males are the vibrant red. Non-migratory birds, they remain in an area all their lives and they mate for life.

Our bird-friendly yard provides many cardinals to watch. Their brilliant color, musical songs, and dedication to their mates have always intrigued me.

Watching males gently offer seeds to the female in a kiss-like gesture warms my romance writer heart.

Cardinals have long been symbolic of beauty in the midst of darkness, hope in the midst of sorrow, and renewal in the midst of winter. There is an old folklore saying that, “When a cardinal appears in your yard, it’s a visitor from heaven.”

When you consider the word cardinal comes from the Latin word cardo, meaning hinge or axis, it’s not too far-fetched to see why many cultures believe a cardinal is the doorway hinge who carries messages back and forth between our Earthly world and the Spirit world.

Choctaw tribes believe a sighting is a relationship omen. If you’re single, seeing a cardinal could be a sign your status is about to change. Or, if your relationship is in trouble, a cardinal sighting is a warning that things need to change.

Other Native American cultures believe cardinals help predict changes in the weather, serve as watchers and guardians, or provide a sign of what direction to travel or follow. Their red is believed to offer protection from enemies and illness.

The Native American shaman medicine wheel includes the four sacred (or cardinal) directions: north, south, east and west, and the four cardinal colors: red, blue, black and white. The color red is associated with the East on the medicine wheel. Words spoken toward the East are said to be carried on wings and delivered directly to the Spirit.

Wherever the symbolic meanings come from, the chirp of the brilliant colored male is hard to ignore when he’s trying to gain your attention. Maybe he is signaling a message.

Or, maybe he’s simply saying, Merry Christmas.