Why Do We Use Red and Green for Christmas Colors?

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Red and green Christmas decorations on a snowy house.
Red and green Christmas decorations on a snowy house. (Image: Design Pics/Design Pics/Getty Images)

Although no individual or organization is credited with making these two colors synonymous with Christmas, legends provide logical explanations behind their acceptance as the colors of the holiday. The combination of red and green used together supports the season's message of peace and goodwill.

Symbol of Life

Holly had much influence on green becoming a Christmas color. It keeps its green hue yearlong and survives harsh winter conditions, making it symbolic of eternal life. Romans used holly in wreathes as decorative tributes to Saturn during annual celebrations of the sun god. After the church chose December 25 as the day to celebrate Christ's birth -- the last day of the Saturn festival -- the tradition of using green holly decorations continued. Green grew to symbolize the promise of life after death for those who believe in Jesus Christ.

Red Holiday History

Holly berries may have given red its first association with Christmas as a symbol of Christ's blood. However, through the legend of a red-robed bishop who gave children gifts, St. Nicholas of Myrna, the red’s use at Christmas grew during the Middle Ages.

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