Most of my wood carvings over the past 15+ winters are done in western red cedar.
9" to 64" tall, nothing huge.
Most commonly, the outer white sap wood is removed as it can get rotten punky in a hurry.
Thus, the carvings are mostly heart wood which is various shades of rusty red.
Me and a bazillion other carvers, here in the Pacific Northwest.
Carvings get dusty, they need some finish to make dusting easier.
MinWax Tung Oil Protective Finish is a soup of all kinds of chemicals.
Might even be some Tung Oil as well.
The first coat, the heavy coat, dries on carvings to a satin finish = just what you need.
Plus, it doesn't seem to darken the cedar as much as I expected.
4 coats, a week apart so you can't smell it, is water-wet glossy. How convenient.
Then you rout out the cavity on the back side. Buy a number set and a clock movement from Lee Valley.
Build the clock and give it to them to hang on the wall. BIG. Be dramatic.
Or install 2 = Local time and some other time-zone where relatives live.