What are the six colors of Christmas? Style experts explain how using them right can feel magical
Red and green are the well-known classic Christmas colors, but which other hues are perfect for holiday decor?
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The six colors of Christmas are the traditional hues that - thanks to their association - can help you reach peak festive feeling just by looking at them. They're also the perfect place to start when planning your holiday decor scheme.
With Google searches for ‘red Christmas decorations’ up 70% and ‘navy Christmas decorations’ up 140% compared to last year, it’s clear we’re all looking forward to getting stuck into Christmas decorating. And that we are sticking to the classic palette, which is where the six colors come in: red, green, gold, silver, white and blue.
Whether you’re going for a festive maximalism look, minimalist Christmas decor or keeping it classic with red and gold, choosing your theme before you begin decorating is a clever way to ensure a professional-looking display.
'When it comes to choosing colors that are most associated with Christmas, we are always drawn to the timeless reds, whites, greens and golds that circulate around this time of year,' say Sally and Sarah Wilkie, Founders of Home Barn.
But why are these colors associated with Christmas, and what are the color trends for this year? Discover everything you need to know below.
What are the six colors of Christmas?
Red, along with green, is the ultimate in making your house look Christmassy. Not only do we associate it with Santa's robes (thanks to Coca Cola ads dating back to 1931), but it can be traced all the way back to the centuries-old Winter Solstice celebration, where Celtic people believed holly plants would bring health, wealth and happiness.
They decorated their homes with the plants to signify the prosperous new year ahead, and this tradition of 'decking the halls' was passed down over time.
'A deep scarlet in particular is reflected in many Christmas symbols, the red of a robin's breast, winter berries, poinsettia, and mulled wine,' says Home Barn (opens in new tab)'s Sarah Wilkie. 'These comforting hues surround us during the festive season, bringing a nostalgic warmth to the home.'
The color green has obvious associations with Christmas trees, which date back to medieval times.
They often symbolized the Garden of Eden in plays and theatre productions. Nativity plays depicted the story of creation, and a 'paradise tree' hung with red apples (another nod to the color red) symbolized the Garden of Eden, or the feast day of Adam and Eve, which took place on Christmas Eve.
Today, green is arguably the color of Christmas, as wreaths and foliage are used in everything from Christmas stair decor and to Christmas table decor.
'Green is also a classic Christmas shade,' says Sarah. 'Traditionally, emerald and forest tones are favored, evocative of Christmas foliage such as holly and fir trees.
'Though more muted tones of green, such as olive, are gaining popularity in recent years, as they pair especially well with gold.'
Symbolically, gold signifies the gift given by the Three Wise Men to the baby Jesus soon after his birth, along with frankincense, and myrrh.
But it's also a wonderful hue to decorate with, bringing a touch of glamor to any scheme.
Sarah Wilkie says: 'Gold is synonymous with celebrations, and adds sparkle and charm to the home over Christmas. It is also a color that will fit within almost any color scheme, so has longevity as an investment.'
Another glamorous metallic hue perfect for Christmas, the significance of silver is historically associated with the star that the Three Wise Men followed to deliver their gifts to baby Jesus.
Silver pairs well with other metallics, as well as rich hues like deep blue. Take a leaf out of Athena Calderone's Christmas tree style book and add combine baubles in different metallic finishes, including silver gold and copper, for a high-end celebratory aesthetic.
'Though sometimes overlooked, white is also a beautiful, traditional color to incorporate into Christmas decorating,' says Sarah Wilkie.
'Reminiscent of snow, it will give an uplifting frosty feel, even if we are not blessed with the magic of real snow on the day.'
As well as being associated with depicting a beautiful winter wonderland landscape dusted with snow - an idea of which was further solidified with iconic hits like Bing Crosby's 'White Christmas' - white also has religious significance as the previously mentioned paradise tree was decorated with white paper wafers.
Whether it's white paper stars or honeycombs, white candles and lights, snow-tipped white Christmas trees, baubles, or dusted pinecones, white is easy to incorporate into any scheme.
Historically, the color blue was often associated with wealth due to the high cost of the pigments needed to dye clothes.
Jesus' mother Mary is often depicted wearing blue to highlight her importance, making blue a lesser-known classic Christmas hue.
Today, it's a beautiful alternative to red for a rich hue for Christmas decorations that pairs particularly well with gold.
Paint expert Annie Sloan says: 'Blue and gold are one of the richest pairings in the artist’s palette, with references ranging from Gatsby-esque Art Deco to Byzantine-style banquets.'
She continues: 'Introducing metallic hints into deep blue schemes will elevate your look from the every day to the celestial and celebratory, and will carry your Christmas decorations through to the New Year's Eve party perfectly.'
The Livingetc edit of the best decorations to buy this holiday
These silver snowflakes fit within the six colors of Christmas and are the ideal size for hanging from lights or door frames. At around 11 inches each, they're not so big you bang your head, not so small you blink and miss them.
Frosted in white and with a tiny hints of green and gold, this wreath crosses the six color spectrum. Perfect for hanging indoors or out.
Not your classic forest green, but so much more interesting and smart. Pistachio is going to be one of the biggest design trends for next year - trust us - so get in early with this ice cream sundae of a tree decoration.
A classic Coca-Cola red to play off the modernity of that pistachio green, these final-shaped baubles drop beautifully when hung on the tree. A snip at $10.
At 6' long, this gold garland would actually look best - we think - snaked along the middle of a Christmas table. Wrap it around bauble displays or candles and its an instant centerpiece.
What are the Christmas colors for 2022?
If you're looking for an alternative to the traditional Christmas colors of red and green, think about playing with purple for a new take on festive styling.
'Rich and luxurious, deep purple and navy blue make a dramatic pairing,' says Annie Sloan. 'For handpainted baubles, stick to a tonal scheme for a layered, cosy look.'
Ann Marie Cousins, Founder, AMC Design (opens in new tab), agrees you the festive season can be a time for experimenting. She says: 'Christmas is a time to be adventurous in your decor, so while the traditional colors like red, green and gold are always popular, think about choosing a different scheme this season.
'If you prefer metallics, layer gold with silver and copper in the form of tree baubles, tree decorations, candle holders or festive branches in a wreath.
'If you prefer to go down the more neutral route, earthy colours like browns, reds and oranges always look great with foliage and soft lighting.'
Looking to the natural world for inspiration is also a Christmas trend for this year, and ties in nicely with Scandinavian Christmas decor ideas.
Embracing an abundance of natural fresh and dried foliage, a colour palette of tonal greens, earthy neutrals and touches of frosty snowy whites come together to create a soothing and enchanting look.
Calling on the principles of biophilic design, the 'wild woodland' theme is inspired by nature, connecting us to the outside world even in the cold depths of winter.
Wayfair’s Resident Style Advisor, Nadia McCowan Hill, says: 'The trend captures the essence of woodland charm, but its overall simplicity displays how easy it can be to give your home a harmonious festive makeover.
'Incorporating greenery into decorating schemes will instantly lift a room, but the complimentary tones in this look of comforting oatmeal, verdant greens and pale woods help foliage displays take centre stage.'
Stefan Ormenisan, Creative Director, MindTheGap (opens in new tab), says: ‘With many of us embracing the beauty of the natural world and wishing for that restorative connection to nature with its nurturing and nourishing ambiance, we continue to see this reflected in color choices within interiors.
'From verdant and deep shades of green and jewel-like berry colors to rich natural tones such as peat and taupe; these colours of nature work in harmony to create a layered atmosphere that is cocooning and cozy.
'They offer a wonderful welcome home and are the perfect backdrop for candlelit evenings with family and cherished friends celebrating the festive season together.’
Home Barn (opens in new tab)'s Sarah Wilkie agrees: 'Natural earthy tones are lesser known festive colors to choose. Organic materials such as wood and leather have a traditional Christmasy feel, and more people are taking a rustic approach to Christmas decorating with decorations such as wooden ornaments, and cinnamon sticks.' They fit well into minimalist Christmas decor.
She adds: 'Another lesser known Christmas color would be ochre. A warm and comforting color, ochre reminds us of crackling flames and spiced orange. This tone will add a cheery spirit to the home at Christmas.'
And, if you want to update the bright green and reds traditionally associated with Christmas, simply tone them down a little.
'Traditional Christmas colours are of course red and green, but at the brighter end of the spectrum,' says Annie Sloan. 'Warm parchment tones combine beautifully with olive for a more elegant take on the festive palette.'
Ruth Doherty is a lifestyle journalist based in London. An experienced freelance digital writer and editor, she is known for covering everything from travel and interiors to fashion and beauty. She regularly contributes to Livingetc, Ideal Home and Homes & Gardens, as well as titles like Prima and Red. Outside of work, her biggest loves are endless cups of tea, almond croissants, shopping for clothes she doesn’t need, and booking holidays she does.
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