Festive Impressions: Decoding Christmas Symbols in Marketing

Christmas is about traditions – about families coming together, sharing love and joy. It is also about giving and receiving gifts, the excitement of festive markets. It’s also a time for the delightful exchange of gifts and the thrill of exploring festive markets. Naturally, this involves shopping. So, it’s the perfect opportunity for brands to reevaluate their marketing strategies and craft ones that truly resonate with their customers.

As customers navigate the delightful challenge of Christmas shopping, they are constantly in search of inspiration and great deals. By providing them with compelling content that sparks their creativity, ideas that simplify their shopping experience, and deals that help them save money, you can significantly boost your Christmas sales.

To achieve this, deploy visually striking ads, engaging social media content, dynamic videos, eye-catching billboards, and flyers in local markets, along with mall banners, ensuring your brand stays top-of-mind for holiday shoppers.

All of these designs you use must carry a festive charm. What better way to infuse the Christmas spirit into your designs than through Christmas symbols? And that’s what we’ll be discussing today. The most popular Christmas symbols – the stories behind them and ideas on incorporating them into your marketing. 

Christmas symbols – what they mean and how to use them in your design 

1. Christmas tree 

Did you know that about 25-30 million Christmas trees are sold every year in the US? 

After all, Christmas doesn’t feel like Christmas until you have brought home the perfect tree and spent days decorating it. But have you ever wondered how an evergreen tree became the center of a holiday tradition? 

The Christmas tree, with origins in western Germany, can be traced back to a medieval play featuring a “paradise tree,” symbolizing the Garden of Eden. By the 18th century, German Lutherans widely adopted the custom of decorating the “paradise tree” on December 24. 

Its introduction to England occurred in the early 19th century, popularized later by Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s German-born husband. An 1848 engraving depicting the royal family decorating a tree further catalyzed its acceptance. Reflecting the family-centric culture of the era, Christmas trees soon became a central element of middle-class holiday festivities.

Now that we’ve spoken about one of the most popular Christmas symbols, let’s look at some tips on how to use it in your marketing designs. 

KIMP Tips: 

  • Use photos of Christmas trees captured from creative viewpoints for a fresh perspective.
  • Combine photography with Christmas tree illustrations to create distinctive visuals.
  • Illustrated Christmas trees like the one from Disney in the below post look catchy.
  • Seamlessly weave your products or specific objects into the holiday theme, like the pizza Christmas tree in the below image. This way you incorporate Christmas symbols while also conveying your brand message.
Social media design by KIMP
2. Santa Claus 

Santa Claus, the jolly figure associated with Christmas is one of the most commonly occurring Christmas symbols in marketing. 

The legend of Santa Claus dates back to the 4th century bishop, Saint Nicholas, known for his altruism. For a deep dive into the history of Santa Claus and Christmas and the use of Santa Claus symbolism in advertising, check out our blog here

Now how can you use Santa Claus in your Christmas marketing designs? Let’s find out. 

KIMP Tips: 

  • Leverage Santa’s expressive nature and jolly mood to evoke the right emotions in your design.
  • Add a creative twist by creating a visual narrative with Santa Claus as the central character who delivers your brand’s message. The below post from Red Bull achieves that in a fun way.
  • Or better yet, dress up your brand mascot or related anthropomorphic figures in a Santa costume. As you can see in the below design, a simple Santa hat will do the trick. 
Social media design by KIMP
3. Candy canes 

Did you know that about 1.76 billion candy canes are made each year? 

Candy canes are popular Christmas symbols that can instantly add a pop of color to the scene. There are many stories behind the association of candy canes and Christmas. 

One of them is that in the late 17th century, a German choirmaster wanted to keep children quiet during a nativity scene’s live reenactment. To accomplish this, he asked a local candy maker to create shepherd’s crook-shaped candies to distribute to the youngsters. These candies evolved into the familiar candy canes we know today, complete with their distinctive stripes.

The candy cane’s symbolism is two-fold. The J-shape is believed to represent Jesus, while the white color symbolizes purity. Over the years, candy canes have become a beloved Christmas treat and a symbol of the season’s sweetness.

Now, let’s explore some creative ways to incorporate candy canes into your marketing designs.

KIMP Tips:

  • Red is the signature color for Christmas-themed visuals. So, add candy cane icons or illustrations such that they do not get lost in the red in your design. 
  • Simple Christmas symbols like the candy cane can be used as repeated patterns for backgrounds. They also make wonderful borders. 
  • Use these Christmas symbols to create an element of interest in your design. In the below print design for example, the orientation of the candy canes is such that your eyes are immediately drawn to the central text in the design. 
Flyer design by KIMP 
4. Poinsettia 

Did you know that the red blooms of a poinsettia are not flowers, but modified leaves? 

The vibrant red poinsettia is a Christmas icon with a captivating history. But how did this humble plant become a significant part of Christmas traditions? Let’s find out. 

The poinsettia’s association with Christmas dates back to 16th-century Mexico. There is a legend of a young girl named Pepita who had no gift to offer at the Christmas Eve church service. 

Therefore, in her desperation, she picked up some weeds and placed them on the altar. Miraculously, these weeds transformed into beautiful red poinsettias, symbolizing the spirit of giving and love. From then onward, the flowers have been called “Flores de Noche Buena,” or “Flowers of the Holy Night.”

Now, let’s explore some creative ways to incorporate poinsettias into your marketing designs:

KIMP Tips: 

  • Use illustrations or actual photographs of poinsettia to infuse your designs with the vibrant colors and spirit of the season.
  • Looking to build a theme around it? Then highlight the plant’s Mexican origins in your marketing content. With this, you add a hint of cultural value to your designs. 
  • Use poinsettias along with other Christmas symbols as border accents to add a festive vibe to your design, as you see in the below social media design. 
Social media design by KIMP
5. Christmas bells 

Christmas bells have been a holiday tradition for centuries, adding a touch of magic to the season. Here’s how they got started:

Bells have been associated with Christmas since ancient times when they were rung to mark the beginning of Christmas services.

In the Middle Ages, church bells played a pivotal role in spreading the message of Christmas. Furthermore, they helped create a sense of community and festivity. Over time, bells began to feature in Christmas carols, such as “Jingle Bells”. All of these further strengthened the association of bells with Christmas.

Here are some creative tips for using bells as the core Christmas symbols in your design: 

  • Superimpose your product images or desired photos over the silhouette of Christmas bells to bring festive cheer. 
  • Experiment with different 2D and 3D illustration styles of Christmas bells to create a unique festival theme. 
  • Experiment with sound effects to recreate the delightful chime of Christmas bells in videos or animations.
6. Wreath

Wreaths have been a crucial symbol of Christmas for centuries. Let’s now look at the story behind their use in Christmas traditions. 

One theory aligns with the observation of Ace Collins, author of Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas. Reportedly, in ancient Europe, when the Christmas tree was brought in for the holiday, there was the tradition of pruning it into shape. People created beautiful wreaths out of the foliage and twigs left over after this pruning process. The tradition evolved from there and has resulted in wreaths becoming crucial Christmas symbols. 

Let’s now look at some ways to use wreaths in your Christmas marketing designs: 

  • Wreaths have traditionally been used to indicate a change of seasons. So, incorporate this as one of the core Christmas symbols to welcome the holiday season. In other words, to initiate your campaign for the holidays! 
  • The circular shape of the wreath and the use of evergreen foliage in it are together believed to represent eternal life. Use this to celebrate timeless traditions. 
  • Use wreaths as decorative frames for your marketing materials, drawing attention to key messages or products like the wreath beautifully accentuating the Christmas wishes in the below design. 
Social media design by KIMP
7. Christmas stockings 

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,

In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.”

– extract from the poem, A Visit From Saint Nicholas

Stockings filled with candies, small toys, gift cards, and even cash have become an integral part of Christmas celebrations. Have you ever wondered how stockings made it to the list of the most recognized Christmas symbols? 

A well-known legend explaining the origin of the connection between stockings and Christmas dates back to Saint Nicholas’s time. The legend involves a poor widowed man with three daughters. Seeing that he was concerned about his financial struggles standing in the way of getting his daughters married, St. Nicholas decided to help him. But discreetly. 

So, he filled their freshly laundered stockings with gold coins. From there came the tradition of hanging stockings by the chimney in hopes of Santa Claus filling them with gifts. 

How can you incorporate this Christmas symbol into your design? 

KIMP Tips: 

  • Design a banner or header for your marketing materials to create a focal point. 
  • Use a repeating pattern of stockings as a background in your design. 
  • Add stocking icons to design elements, such as bullet points, dividers, or borders.
  • Illustrate your products or services as “gifts” inside the stockings. This can represent the idea that you are bringing something special for the holiday season. 
  • Create a cozy and festive feel by adding intricate stitching patterns that mimic real embroidery, incorporating your brand name or monogram into Christmas stockings. The below image for example, seamlessly incorporates the message into the array of stockings. 
Social media design by KIMP
8. Elf on the shelf 

This one is a little different from the rest of the Christmas symbols on the list because this tradition is relatively new. 

The Elf on the Shelf tradition originated from a children’s book of the same name written by Carol Aebersold and her daughter Chanda Bell. First published in 2005, the book tells the tale of Santa’s scout elves, who visit homes during the holiday season to report children’s behavior to Santa Claus. And according to the story, every night, the elf returns to a different hiding spot. 

The idea quickly caught up and families with little kids started adopting the “elf on the shelf” tradition for Christmas. 

So, how can you incorporate the symbolism of these adorable elves in your designs? 

KIMP Tips: 

  • Remember to use a whimsical color palette along with reds and greens to capture the playful spirit of the elves. 
  • Create elves with different personalities and use them to tell a story. 
  • Add personal touches to the elves by adding your brand t-shirt or hat to preserve the tradition while also uniquely representing your brand. 
  • To accurately depict the playfulness of the elves, create expressive illustrations and animated GIFs. 
  • Remember that the story is more relevant to children and therefore it is one of the best Christmas symbols to use in designs where the target audience is children. As you see in the below design! 
Flyer design by KIMP

Need help designing custom illustrations of elves for your Christmas campaigns? Get a KIMP Graphics subscription. 

9. Holly 

Either alone or combined with other Christmas symbols like bells, holly leaves, and berries are quite common in Christmas-themed designs. But why? Let’s find out. 

In the past, Druids celebrated the evergreen nature of the holly plant and the way it added a pop of color even on cold winter days. Moreover, hanging holly leaves at home was believed to bring good luck. 

Another legend says that the holly berries that were originally white turned red from the blood of Jesus Christ. All of these beliefs and traditions slowly led to the holly plant becoming an important part of Christmas decorations. 

How can you incorporate holly leaves and berries in your marketing designs for Christmas? 

  • If you are looking to create something more traditional and culturally significant, then holly leaves and berries are some of the most impactful Christmas symbols to use. 
  • Add holly leaf or berry motifs to your typography like incorporating the holly leaves in the serifs or the berries in place of the dots for the letters “i” and “j”. 
  • Showcase your products or services surrounded by holly leaves and berries to convey a festive and seasonal vibe. Or use them as borders to create a subtle holiday touch, as you see in the below design. 
Flyer design by KIMP
10. Star 

Star is one of the most common and instantly recognizable Christmas symbols. Besides its festive appearance, it also has a deep-rooted association with the festival. 

The star in Christmas traditions is based on the Star of Bethlehem in the Bible. Legend has it that the star led the Wise Men to Jesus, symbolizing hope and light. Therefore, the star has been an inseparable part of Christmas decor. 

Let’s now talk about some ways to use stars in Christmas marketing designs. 

  • To create a festive atmosphere in your designs, use stars in shades of gold, silver, or shimmering metallics.
  • To draw attention to key elements in your design, such as headings, logos, or product images, add starbursts or individual stars as decorative accents around them.
  • Create custom star icons that align with your brand’s style. And these icons can be consistently used on all design formats promoting your Christmas campaigns. 
  • Combine stars with other seasonal elements and Christmas symbols like snowflakes to add a touch of grandeur while staying true to the theme. 
Social media design by KIMP

Design your festive-ready Christmas ads with KIMP 

In a nutshell, you have plenty of options to give your marketing designs a Christmas flair and make them shine in the midst of the holiday visuals online and offline. Whether it’s emails, social media posts, flyers, or even festive packaging, there’s a wide range of marketing materials you can tailor for the Christmas season. But here’s the key: How can you ensure your Christmas designs look consistent across all these platforms? The solution is simple – collaborate with a dedicated design team that can handle both your print and digital design needs.

So, what are you waiting for? Get a KIMP subscription. Register now for a free 7-day trial.