How Red And Green Became The Official Colors Of Christmas

It all comes back to holly and ivy.

Red Christmas Ornament on Tree
Photo: Roberto Machado Noa / Contributor / Getty Images

For as long as we can remember, red and green have been the colors associated with Christmas. But few people realize why these complementary hues represent the popular holiday or where its origins begin. This traditional color scheme has a history rooted in symbolism, religion, and even Coca-Cola. Here's what you need to know about the classic red and green Christmas color palette.

Celtics and the Winter Solstice

According to Reader's Digest, it started centuries ago with ancient Celtic people who revered red-and green-colored holly plants for surviving the winter. They believed that holly kept the Earth beautiful during winter, so they decorated their homes with it during Winter Solstice celebrations to bring protection and good luck to their families. This tradition transformed into a similar version of today's festive red and green Christmas decor.

Symbols in Christianity

Throughout the Bible, red and green symbolize the life of Jesus. Red is the blood of Jesus Christ, and green is the evergreen tree, representing eternal life as it stays this hue throughout the winter. These two colors also represent the leaves and holly berries embodying the crown of thorns on Jesus' head on the cross.

Christmas Colors in Modern History

A few hundred years later, Haddon Sundblom, the illustrator behind Coca-Cola's iconic Santa Claus ads, burst onto the scene and forever solidified red and green as Christmas colors. People still consider Sundblom's depiction of St. Nick as "the real one." Before Coca-Cola's ads, Santa often appeared dressed in various colors—a far cry from the signature red suit we associate with him now.

Additional Christmas Colors

Although red and green dominate the Christmas season, additional colors are still significant to this time of the year. In the Bible, white, like the snowy winters, refers to purity, light, and holiness associated with the Christmas holiday. Gold and silver are also typical hues found in Christmas decor, which can represent gifts from the Wise Men to Jesus.

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