The History of Holiday Colors

December 07, 2021

When you think about the holiday season, there are distinct colors that come to mind connected to the holiday that you celebrate. However, how often do we stop to think about where these colors came from? Why do we have such strong connections in our minds between these colors and our holiday traditions? For many holidays there is not one direct answer. Read on to learn the history and fun facts connected to these holiday colors. 

Christmas: Red and Green 

The use of red and green to represent the Christmas holiday is a link that goes back centuries, and doesn’t have one direct connection. The colors connect back as far as the celebration of the winter solstice and the Celtic tradition of decorating with holly plants. The holly plant is a small evergreen bush characterized by red berries and spiky green leaves. This plant was believed to bring good fortune and was often used as decoration around the home, a tradition that carried on into other Christmastime celebrations. In the Christian religion holly plants are said to represent the blood of Christ (symbolized by the red berries) and the Crown of Thorns (the holly leaves). 

However, a more modern connection between these colors and the Christmas holiday is the depiction of Santa Claus. Pulled from various traditions, the depiction of the Santa known today began with artist Thomas Nast who created an illustration of Santa for the cover of Harper’s Weekly beginning in 1863. However, according to Arielle Eckstut, co-author of The Secret Language of Color, this depiction of Santa really took off in 1931 thanks to Coca-Cola. The company hired artist Haddon Sundblom to create an illustration of Santa for their advertising campaigns, bringing the image of a red and green jolly Santa into the average household and cementing the colors of Christmas into modern day popular culture. 

Hanukkah: Blue, White, and (sometimes) Silver

The main colors associated with Hanukkah are blue and white. These are the two colors found in the flag of Israel officially adopted by the country in 1948. These colors connect further in Jewish culture with a religious connection as well: both colors appear in the tallit or Jewish prayer shawl. The tallit is white with stripes of blue originally dyed with blue ink from a sea snail. This shade of blue (tekhelet) has theological connections to the Torah and is meant to be a reminder of God’s presence in Jewish religious practices. There are universal associations with these colors as well: white symbolizing purity and peace and blue connecting to faith, wisdom, and truth. 

In addition to white and blue, silver is sometimes incorporated as a color in Hanukkah celebrations. This is believed to be due to the popularity of silver menorahs.

Kwanzaa: Red, Black, and Green 

There are three colors associated with Kwanzaa: red, black, and green. Each color is connected to the seven candles (Mishumaa Saba) used in the celebration of Kwanzaa, with each color having a distinct symbolic meaning. Red symbolizes the blood shed in the past. Black symbolizes the people of African descent around the world. Lastly, green symbolizes the land of Africa itself. These colors are used in various decorations through this holiday season, including rich textiles and other art objects displayed around the home. 

We at Domanda Design wish you a very happy and healthy Holiday Season! Thank you for shopping with us throughout this year and we hope to see you in 2022! 


This blog post was written by Emma Becker