A close-up photograph of an open Bible, with a holly branch delicately placed on Psalm 92:12, symbolizing the biblical meaning of holly as a representation of righteousness and spiritual beauty.

What Does Holly Mean In The Bible?

The holly plant is synonymous with Christmas and the holiday season, with its vibrant red berries and pointy leaves adorning wreaths and garlands everywhere during the festive period. But did you know that holly also has religious and spiritual significance in the Bible?

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: In the Bible, holly represents life everlasting, Christ’s crown of thorns, and foretelling Jesus’ death and resurrection.

In this comprehensive article, we will explore the deeper biblical meaning and symbolism of holly. We will analyze key passages mentioning holly, look at how it has been interpreted as representing Jesus’ sacrifice, and understand why Christians have long associated holly with Christmas and concepts like eternal life.

The Holly Plant in the Bible

Old Testament Mentions of Holly

The holly plant is mentioned several times in the Old Testament, primarily in passages using it as a symbol or metaphor. In Isaiah 55:13, the prophet writes, “Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree; and it shall be to the Lord for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”

Here, the cypress tree, which is similar to holly, represents blessings, protection, and favor from God.

In other passages, holly’s thick, prickly leaves are used as a metaphor for difficult people or situations. In Ezekiel 28:24, God says, “And for the house of Israel there shall be no more a brier to prick or a thorn to hurt them among all their neighbors who have treated them with contempt.”

This suggests that holly’s thorns symbolize harm, trouble, and adversarial relationships.

New Testament and Holly Symbolism

While holly is not directly mentioned in the New Testament, its symbolic meanings can provide insight into biblical passages. Its thorns and red berries evoke imagery of Jesus’s crown of thorns and blood during his crucifixion (John 19:2, 5).

The sharp leaves also connect to biblical themes of pain, sacrifice, and overcoming adversity.

In Christmas traditions, holly represents Jesus’s sacrifice and shedding of blood for humanity. Its prickliness can symbolize the challenges and sacrifice associated with God’s plan of salvation. Yet paired with bright red berries, this imagery also suggests redemption, hope, and the promise of eternal life for those who endure adversity.

So while the holly plant itself is not discussed in the New Testament, connections can be made between its symbolic meanings and important biblical narratives – especially relating to Jesus’s ministry, death, and resurrection.

The vivid visual imagery of holly evokes both the pain and promise at the heart of the Christian story.

Holly as a Representation of Christ’s Crown of Thorns

In the Bible, holly is often seen as a symbol of Jesus Christ’s crown of thorns. When Jesus was condemned to death, soldiers mocked him by placing a crown made of thorns on his head. The sharp thorns would have pierced Jesus’ head, causing blood to trickle down his face as he walked to his crucifixion (John 19:2-3).

Botanically speaking, many holly plants have glossy, spiked leaves and berry-like fruits. For instance, the leaves of Ilex aquifolium (European holly) have sharp, stiff points on the edges. Its bright red berries stand out against the dark green foliage, especially in winter.

The thorny leaves are reminiscent of the cruel crown forced onto Jesus. Thus, hollies have come to symbolize Christ’s sacrifice and suffering.

The Crucifixion Connection

In particular, European holly’s association with Jesus’ Passion emerged in medieval times. Around Christmastime, Christians would use holly branches to decorate church buildings and homes. The prickly leaves represented Christ’s crown of thorns, while the red berries symbolized drops of his blood.

Holly wound up becoming a central Christmas decoration and emblem.

The motifs of thorns and blood also evoke Jesus’ crucifixion. After being mocked and beaten, Christ was nailed to a wooden cross on Calvary Hill. As he hung there in agony, blood ran from the wounds in his hands, feet and side (John 19:34).

So when Christians adorned crosses and Christmas scenes with holly, it served as a vivid reminder of how Jesus suffered and died for humanity’s salvation. The blood-colored berries tie directly into the crucifixion story.

Hope and Eternal Life

Yet holly relayed a message of hope in addition to commemorating Christ’s pain. Its evergreen leaves remained fresh even in cold winter weather. To Christians, this symbolized Jesus’ triumph over death and the promise of eternal life for those who believe in him.

Red holly berries also signified the blood Jesus shed to redeem people from sin and death. So while the thorny leaves represented the cruelty of Good Friday, the red fruits pointed ahead to Easter Sunday and the Resurrection.

Though Jesus wore a crown of thorns in his final hours, he did not remain trapped behind that instrument of torture and humiliation.

Therefore, holly serves as a reflection of Christ’s Passion as well as the new life offered through faith in him. The woods used to construct Jesus’ cross sprouted fresh green leaves just like holly plants. And the blood that dripped from the Crown of Thorns nourishes and sustains life eternally.

Holly and Concepts of Everlasting Life

The Blood-Red Berries

The bright red berries of the holly plant represent the blood of Christ in Biblical symbolism. As Isaiah 1:18 states, “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.” The striking crimson color serves as a reminder of Jesus’s sacrifice to cleanse humanity’s sins and grant eternal life in heaven to those who believe in Him (John 3:16).

The circular shape and clustered growth further evoke themes of unity, wholeness, and the crown of thorns worn by Christ.

During Christmas, holly branches and wreaths adorned with gleaming red berries symbolize Jesus’s painful passion, the immortality of His spirit, and the promise of resurrection. As Christianity spread throughout Europe in the Middle Ages and Renaissance era, holly maintained its association with Christ’s Passion and the hope of salvation.

The spiky leaves and bitter bark also came to represent the suffering of Jesus before overcoming death.

The Evergreen Foliage

In addition to berries, the resilient evergreen leaves of holly signify eternal life in Biblical iconography. While other plants wither and die during winter, holly remains verdantly vibrant – keeping its foliage year-round.

For believers, this serves as a metaphor for the soul’s journey and the afterlife promised to the faithful. The sharp points of the leaves recall the crown of thorns worn by Jesus, while their lasting green color represents triumph over hardship and suffering.

The holly bush thus encapsulates the eternal life granted by Christ’s sacrifice. In a spiritual sense, the crimson berries signify the crucified Savior who redeems sins with blood, while the hardy evergreen foliage stands for the rebirth beyond earthly death.

This poignant symbolism continues today, as Christians display Christmas holly to celebrate Jesus’s gift of salvation and the hope of heaven.

The Holly and the Ivy: Biblical Plant Symbolism

The holly plant has long been associated with winter holidays and Christmas celebrations. But did you know that this prickly, bright green plant also has symbolic meaning in the Bible? Let’s take a look at what the Bible says about holly and other symbolic plants.

In the Old Testament, the holly is often interpreted as a representation of Christ’s crown of thorns. The sharp, pointed leaves resemble the thorns used during the crucifixion. Isaiah 53:5 says, “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.”

The blood-red berries on the holly are also thought to symbolize the blood that Jesus shed on the cross.

The holly is sometimes referred to as the “Holy Tree” and paired with the ivy plant in classic Christmas carols like “The Holly and the Ivy.” The ivy represents faithfulness and eternal life. This pairing reflects Jesus’s faithfulness in sacrificing himself for humankind and the eternal life offered through his resurrection.

Other plants like laurel, pine, and cedar also carry symbolic meaning in the Bible. Laurel represents victory and honor, evoking triumph over sin and death. The pine and cedar are evergreen trees that represent eternal life, perseverance, and resilience.

The use of plants and trees in symbolism establishes the Garden of Eden as the ideal state of paradise and draws on imagery of nature to represent abstract theological concepts. Specific plants highlight different aspects of Christ’s life and ministry.

So next time you deck your home with festive holly branches, remember the deep biblical meaning behind this seasonal plant!

How Holly Became Associated with Christmas

Holly has long been a symbol of Christmas, with its glossy green leaves and bright red berries becoming synonymous with the festive season. But how did this modest evergreen shrub become so closely linked to one of the biggest celebrations of the year?

The association between holly and Christmas stretches back centuries. In pre-Christian Europe, holly was thought to have magical powers and was used to ward off evil spirits and protect homes during the cold winter.

When Christianity began to spread across Europe, the plant became absorbed into Christmas celebrations. Since holly remained green and bore fruit in winter, it came to represent life and was incorporated into Christmas decorations.

By the Middle Ages, using holly and other evergreens like ivy, mistletoe, and laurel to decorate homes and churches at Christmas was common across Europe. The plants served as a reminder that life carried on even during the cold, harsh winters.

The tradition spread as Christianity expanded and holly came to take on specifically Christian meanings. The sharp edges of its leaves symbolized Christ’s crown of thorns and the red berries represented his blood.

According to legend, holly also shelters friendly sprites and elves that come out during the Christmas season. In some traditions, bringing holly branches inside at Christmas provided a place for these kindly spirits to stay warm during the winter.

Over time, the association between holly, Christmas sprites, and the winter season grew very strong throughout Europe.

By the 19th century, Victorian Christmas traditions had spread the symbolic use of holly worldwide. The Victorians used holly extravagantly to decorate homes, churches, and public buildings. Printed cards, magazines, and books also featured holly and reinforced its attachment to Christmas.

As Victorian Christmas customs became popular in America, the use of holly as a mainstay of Christmas decor became standard across the Atlantic.

Today, the connection between holly and Christmas is engrained in traditions around the world. Its glossy leaves and bright berries adorn everything from cards to carols as a symbol of the season. While holly likely first became linked to Christmas simply because it was green and remained so during winter, over centuries it has accumulated rich meanings and associations.

Its continued use preserves a festive tradition with very ancient roots.


To conclude, while a popular Christmas decoration today, holly and its blood-red berries and sharp leaves carried deep biblical symbolism foretelling Jesus’ painful crucifixion but ultimate resurrection and eternal life.

Early Christians latched onto the holly’s ability to stay green in winter as representing Jesus bestowing the gift of everlasting life. Over time, these strong spiritual associations led to holly becoming an integral part of Christmas celebrations.

Similar Posts