The traditional Christmas colour palette consists of red and green hues, with accents of gold and silver – and is instantly recognisable in Christmas decor, Christmas lights and Christmas gift wrapping paper. The deep red of holly berries, the striking green of Christmas garlands, and the glittering of frost on winter rooftops: these warm, bright and sparkling colours emphasise the festive cheer and happiness associated with Christmas, just as much as the jingling of bells and the smell of warm mulled wine.
Why red and green?
This combination of red and green together is said to originate from Pagan beliefs where evergreen plants were used to celebrate the winter solstice as a symbol of ongoing life, but is just as likely to be drawn from naturally occurring colours at this time of year – in which the red and green of the evergreen holly plant brighten the monochrome palette of the cold and dark winter months.
The popularity of the traditional Christmas palette was solidified in the Victorian era, when many of our Christmas traditions originated – including the custom of giving cards and wrapping gifts. The central importance of Father Christmas or Santa Claus in Christmas imagery also originates in the 19th century. Although St Nicholas has a far deeper history rooted in mediaeval Christianity, his popularity in stories and images as a giver of gifts really began with the publication of ‘A Visit From St Nicholas’ – also known as The Night Before Christmas, in 1823. In early illustrations of this beautiful and well-loved children’s poem, St Nick is depicted as a jolly little elf sporting a verdant green coat.
When did Father Christmas start wearing red?
It was only in the 1870s that the tradition of Father Christmas wearing red began, spurred by the illustrations of American cartoonist Thomas Nast. Contrary to popular misconception, it wasn’t Coca-Cola that first dressed Santa in his red fur-lined coat. The iconic Coca-Cola Christmas adverts of the 1930s did much to embed the modern image of Santa Claus in popular consciousness, but these drew on an already established tradition of the red cloak and white beard.
The colour gold is also deeply linked with Christmas, due in part to its bright and sparkling nature, gold symbolises wealth and abundance, which is why it makes for a perfect Christmas hue on wrapping paper and packaging – sending positive wishes for abundance and happiness in the New Year.
What colours to use in Christmas gift wrapping paper?
When it comes to designing Christmas packaging, gift boxes, and gift wrap tissue paper, it's important to use cheerful and festive colours that create a warm atmosphere. Red, green, and gold are the quintessential choices that are associated with the festive season. Within this palette, however, there is broad scope for individuality.
Darker shades of these colours can give a more sophisticated and elegant feel to packaging, for instance, while brighter shades convey a childlike spirit of excitement and innocence. You can also incorporate additional colours such as ivory, navy blue, white, or silver for an extra pop of colour or even a touch of sparkle on your packaging.
There is no need to limit yourself exclusively to these traditional options. White and blue, or bright blues or purples, can provide a striking contrast that instantly draws attention from passers-by while still clearly conveying a festive, wintry aesthetic. Also consider using soothing pastels for more nuanced and sophisticated colour schemes.
Don't be afraid to experiment with colour combinations for a bespoke and eye-catching Christmas aesthetic unique to your business!
Check out our Christmas packaging collection
If you’d like to find out more about how eye-catching festive packaging can help you sell more items over Christmas and make a memorable impression on your customers, please check out our Christmas packaging collection, or call us today to discuss your bespoke packaging requirements.