The red cardinal bird holds special spiritual meaning for Christians as they symbolize everlasting vitality (the faith in the blood of Christ as the birds are red in color), Christmas (the birth of Christ) and are also considered a creative force (the red color equals vitality and creativity). The word cardinal comes from the Latin word cardo, which means hinge, so something that has cardinal qualities is of the utmost importance and other things hinge around it.
The Cherokee believe that the cardinal is an omen and is the daughter of the earthly sun. If a person sees a cardinal flying downward then it is bad luck, but if a person sees a cardinal flying upward towards her father, the sun, then it is good luck.
The cardinal was recognized in 1926 as the state bird of Kentucky. It was the first bird to gain state recognition. It is now the state bird of six other states including Ohio, Virginia, West Virginia, Indiana, North Carolina and Illinois. It is the most popular state bird and is also the name of the St. Louis professional baseball team as well as the name of the Arizona professional football team. There are also several university athletic teams that have the cardinal as a mascot, including the Stanford Cardinals and the Wesleyan Cardinals.