The Most Popular Symbols of Christmas and Their Meanings

By Carmen Slabbert
Edited by Taj Schlebusch

Published September 22, 2021.

Christmas themed iced cookies

Christmas Day is a western custom that has come to be celebrated all over the world. It is a holiday packed with symbolism and rituals that are filled with history. You will undoubtedly recognize some of the symbols mentioned below and possibly learn one or two new things.

The 10 Christmas Symbols

1 and 2: The Star and the Poinsettia

Hands holding a Poinsettia

In Christianity, the Christmas star symbolizes the star of Bethlehem. This star pointed the wise men to the manger where baby Jesus was born. Crowning the tree with a star is a personal choice. Another option could be the Poinsettia.

The Poinsettia is a native American flower. The shape of the flower and leaves resembles a star. The red leaves symbolize the blood of Jesus, and the white represents the purity of Christ.

3: The Christmas Tree

A lit-up Christmas tree next to a fireplace

The Evergreen Fir tree was used for thousands of years in winter festivals. It symbolizes everlasting life with God. It is thought that this kind of life has been made possible with Jesus's birth.

4: Holly


The prickly leaves of Holly symbolize the crown of thorns that Jesus wore when crucified. The red berries remind us about the blood he shed with the thorn crown.

5: Mistletoe


The tradition of hanging it in the house goes back to the ancient Druids. They used mistletoe to ward off evil spirits and bring good luck, love, and friendship to the household.

6: The Wreath

A Christmas wreath

Using a wreath goes back to the Roman Era. The circle shape represents the eternal love, strength of Christ, and creation of new life. Today it symbolizes generosity, giving, and the gathering of families.

7: The Bell

A golden Christmas bell ornament

The bells that ring during Christmas announce the start of the Christmas season and the birth of Jesus. Some bells start church services, while others are used while caroling.

8: Santa Claus

 Santa Claus holding Christmas gifts

St Nicholas was a 4th-century bishop that lived in Myra. He was known for helping the poor and giving gifts to needy people. Because of the kindness he showed, he was declared a Saint.

Later, Dutch settlers in the USA heard the different stories about Saint Nicholas, called him Sinterklaas. He then became Santa Claus as we know him today. His red suit was modeled on the bishop robes he wore during Victorian times.

9: Reindeer

A reindeer

Reindeers are native to the Arctic regions. They are well-adapted to the cold and rugged conditions and represent safe journeying and endurance through travels. They became part of the Christmas tradition after Clement Moore wrote the poem “A Visit from St Nicholas."

10: The Candy Cane

Candy canes in a jar

In 1874 candy canes became part of the Christmas tradition. The "J" shape of the candy has two meanings. One is that it is the shape of a shepherd’s staff, and secondly, it stands for Jesus. The white in the cane represents the purity of Jesus and the red the blood he shed on the cross.

Why Do We Celebrate Jesus’ Birthday on December 25th?

There is no mention of Christmas in the Bible. In the time of Emperor Constantine (336 AD), the celebration of Christmas on December 25th was first recorded.

There is controversy about whether Jesus was born on December 25th or not. Some scholars believe this is not the birth date of Jesus but instead that it was in spring or summer. They reasoned that the shepherds wouldn't have been outside with their flock in winter. Some scholars say it is the right day. They say that the Angel told Mary that she would give birth to Jesus was on March 25th, and if you count nine months from this date, you get December 25th.

What Is the True Biblical Meaning of Christmas?

The true message of a biblical Christmas is of God's love for the world through the birth of Jesus Christ. He was born to sacrifice and pay the price for all our sins. Through the symbols such as the fir tree, one can see that this love is portrayed as eternal.