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Why is yellow a Christmas color?

Why is yellow a Christmas color?

Yellow is a bright, sunny color that we often associate with summer. So why has it become a popular color for Christmas as well? The use of yellow in Christmas decorations and traditions has a long history with symbolic meaning. In this article, we’ll explore why yellow became a Christmas color and its significance during the holiday season.

The history of yellow as a Christmas color

The use of yellow at Christmas time goes back centuries. In medieval times, holly plants with their glossy green leaves and bright red berries were popular Christmas decorations. However, another related plant – ivy – was also used. Ivy has green leaves like holly but bears yellow-green flowers and berries instead of red.

During the Renaissance era in Europe, religious paintings and stained glass often showed the baby Jesus wrapped in golden swaddling clothes. Yellow was a stand-in for gold, suggesting divinity, importance and light.

Century Use of Yellow at Christmas
Middle Ages Ivy plants with yellow berries used as decor
Renaissance Era Paintings of baby Jesus in yellow/gold

In Victorian England, paper lanterns and candles were a popular Christmas decoration. Yellow and gold paper lanterns symbolized the light of the Star of Bethlehem that guided the three wise men.

Yellow as a symbol of light

One of the key symbolic meanings of yellow at Christmastime is light. In the Christian tradition, Jesus is seen as the “light of the world” so yellow candles and lanterns represent Jesus as the light of Christmas.

The winter solstice also occurs around the Christmas season. The solstice marks the darkest, shortest days of the year in the Northern hemisphere. Yellow is associated with sunshine, warmth and the return of longer days. Yellow decorations can symbolize the anticipation of the Christmas season bringing light back into the world.

Yellow Symbol Meaning
Candles Jesus as the light of the world
Lanterns The Star of Bethlehem
Sun imagery The return of longer days

Yellow and gold as royal colors

In many cultures, yellow and gold are seen as noble, royal colors. The three wise men who visited baby Jesus were believed to be kings bearing gifts fit for royalty. Depictions of their journey to find the Christ child often show them in splendid yellow and gold clothing and accessories.

Associating yellow and gold with royalty and divinity continues today. Christmas decorations like tinsel garland and golden ribbon represent the majesty of the season. The Christmas story is about the king of heaven sending his only son to earth. Decorating with yellow helps symbolize the regal nature of Jesus’ birth.

Yellow as a joyful color

Yellow is often described as a cheery, joyful color representing happiness and warmth. During the dark winter months, yellow decorations bring the brightness and jubilation associated with the Christmas spirit. They represent the joy surrounding Christ’s birth.

The song “Joy to the World” includes the line “let heaven and nature sing.” What is one thing that brings joy to nature every year? The radiant yellow sun! The joyful meaning of yellow makes it a perfect color for celebrating at Christmas.

Yellow Decor What it Represents
Bows and ribbons Joy and cheer
Twinkling lights Merriment and delight
Poinsettias Happiness and celebration

Common yellow and gold Christmas decorations

Many traditional Christmas decorations come in yellow and gold tones. Here are some of the most popular yellow holiday decor items:

– Bows and ribbons – Yellow bows are cheerful accents to tie around wreaths and garlands. Gold wired ribbon can make elegant bows to top presents or decorate a mantle.

– Twinkling lights – Strings of tiny yellow lights are commonly used to decorate Christmas trees and houses. Yellow bulbs interspersed with other colors create a warm, festive sparkle.

– Candles – Yellow and gold candles add a cozy glow. They can be scented with Christmas fragrances like cinnamon and pine. Groupings of different height yellow candles make a classic centerpiece.

– Ornaments – Shiny gold baubles are a traditional tree ornament. Handmade yarn pom-poms in yellow are fun DIY ornaments.

– Poinsettias – The bright yellow centers of poinsettia flowers contrast beautifully with the red bracts. These yellow-and-red plants are quintessential Christmas decor.

– Tinsel – Draping golden tinsel across the tree is a vintage-inspired decorator’s touch. The shimmery strands catch the light elegantly.

Yellow in Christmas foods and drinks

Yellow also finds its way onto the Christmas dinner table in classic holiday foods and beverages. Here are some examples:

– Eggnog – Rich, sweet eggnog is traditionally served with a dash of nutmeg on top. The speckled, yellow-orange nutmeg is the perfect festive finishing touch.

– Corn – Kernels of yellow corn are found in many holiday casseroles and vegetable sides. Dishes like creamed corn and corn pudding are Christmas favorites.

– Macaroni and cheese – Many cooks make the comfort food mac and cheese for holiday meals. The yellow, cheesy pasta dish says Christmas.

– Lemon desserts – Cookies like lemon drops and desserts like lemon bars provide tart, refreshing yellow flavor.

– Yellow cake with chocolate frosting – This cake combo is a Christmas staple thanks to the black-and-yellow color scheme mimicking a bumble bee.

Food/Drink Description
Eggnog Garnished with yellow nutmeg
Corn Yellow kernels are in casseroles
Mac and cheese Cheesy yellow pasta
Lemon desserts Yellow lemon-flavored cookies and bars


While yellow may seem like an unorthodox color choice for the winter Christmas season, it has a long, meaningful history. The bright hue carries many symbolic associations. Yellow represents light triumphing over darkness, royalty deserving of honor, and sheer joy and gladness.

Next time you see a streak of yellow tinsel, a golden ribbon, or a candle’s yellow glow, remember the significance. Yellow decorations perfectly capture so many reasons we celebrate Christmas – Jesus as the light of the world, the newborn king, and sharing happiness during the most wonderful time of the year.