The Evolution of Red and Green: The Colours of Christmas

Christmas Wreath by Gabby Malpas

The festive season of Christmas is adorned with vibrant colours, and two hues that stand out prominently are red and green. From Santa’s iconic suit to evergreen trees adorned with bright ornaments, these colours have become synonymous with the holiday. The origins of why red and green became the colours of Christmas are rooted in both historical and cultural traditions that have evolved over centuries.

Historical Roots

The association of red and green with Christmas can be traced back to ancient pagan celebrations, which often revolved around the winter solstice. The ancient Romans celebrated Saturnalia, a festival honouring the god Saturn, during the darkest days of winter. They adorned their homes with greenery, such as holly and evergreen branches, symbolizing life and hope amid the barren winter landscape.

Christian Influence

The rise of Christianity played a significant role in shaping Christmas traditions and its colour symbolism. When early Christians sought to convert pagan communities, they incorporated certain aspects of pagan celebrations into their own religious observances. The use of evergreen decorations found its way into Christian celebrations as a symbol of eternal life through Jesus Christ.

Red and Its Symbolism

Red, a color that has long held diverse meanings, gained prominence in the Christmas context. One significant association is with the legendary figure of Saint Nicholas, a fourth-century bishop known for his acts of kindness and gift-giving. Over time, his story morphed into the modern image of Santa Claus, characterized by a red suit trimmed with white fur. The iconic red coat is said to have been inspired by the 1930s Coca-Cola advertisements, further cementing the association between Santa Claus and the color red.

Green and Its Significance

Green’s connection to Christmas finds its roots in both the pagan and Christian traditions. The use of evergreen plants as decorative elements symbolized rebirth and renewal during the winter months. Early Christians utilized evergreens to signify eternal life through faith in Christ. As such, green became emblematic of hope and new beginnings.

The Victorian Era

The 19th century, specifically the Victorian era, played a pivotal role in shaping many modern Christmas traditions, including the use of red and green. The publication of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” in 1843 presented a heartwarming depiction of Christmas celebrations. The story’s vivid descriptions of green holly and red berries further popularized these colours in association with the holiday.

The Evolution of Christmas Cards

During the Victorian era, the practice of sending Christmas cards gained popularity. These cards often featured illustrations of winter scenes with green holly and red berries, deepening the association of red and green with Christmas. As the tradition of exchanging Christmas cards spread, the colours became deeply ingrained in the collective consciousness of the holiday.

Commercialization and Media Influence

With the advent of mass media and commercialization in the 20th century, the use of red and green in Christmas-themed advertisements, movies, and decorations became even more widespread. Companies began incorporating these colours into their branding and advertising campaigns during the holiday season, further solidifying the connection between red, green, and Christmas.


The evolution of red and green as the colours of Christmas is a fascinating journey through history, culture, and religious traditions. From their origins in ancient pagan celebrations and Christian symbolism to the influence of literature, media, and commercialization, these colours have become an inseparable part of the festive season.

Today, red and green evoke feelings of warmth, joy, and celebration, reminding us of the importance of cherished traditions and the spirit of giving. As we continue to embrace these vibrant colours during Christmas, let us remember the rich tapestry of history and cultural significance they represent, making the holiday season all the more special and meaningful.

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the authorVinh Van Lam
Vinh Van Lam, co-founder of ArtSHINE, is a visionary art coach and entrepreneur with a passion for fostering creativity. With a diverse background in art and business, he brings a unique perspective to empower emerging artists, enabling them to thrive in the dynamic art industry through the innovative platform of ArtSHINE.

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