Decorate a Church for Christmas

The Christmas season is one of the most special times of the year for Christians, who celebrate the birth of Jesus during this holiday. Many Christians choose to celebrate Christmas at a local church, where Christmas decorations draw worshipers into the celebration of the birth of Jesus. While there are no set rules for decorating a church for Christmas, there are a few traditions that some churches use to set the stage for a meaningful Advent and Christmas worship season. Use these tips to decorate a church for Christmas.


  1. Symbolize the passage of Advent with an Advent wreath. An Advent wreath is an evergreen wreath featuring 4 candles. Often, a fifth candle is placed in the center of the wreath. The Advent wreath is used during the 4 weeks of Advent, just prior to Christmas, as Christians prepare for the coming of the Christ child.
    • Light 1 candle of the Advent wreath each Sunday. The candle lighting is commonly accompanied by prayers, Bible readings and/or songs. Some Advent wreaths include a fifth candle, which is called the Christ candle and is lit on either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Advent wreaths can be made using fresh greenery or artificial greenery.
  2. Decorate a church with a Christmas tree or Chrismon tree. Churches can utilize live or artificial trees to decorate their worship spaces.
    • Display a traditional Christmas tree. Decorate a live or artificial tree with lights, ornaments, garland and/or tinsel. Decorations can be those made by church members, or they can be simply store-bought ornaments.
    • Display a Chrismon tree. A Chrismon tree is a live or artificial evergreen tree decorated with Chrismons, which are ornaments that are symbolic of the life of Christ. Chrismons are usually white and gold, and often are made by members of the local church.
  3. Display fresh greenery throughout the church. Evergreens, including conifers, holly and ivy, are symbolic of eternal life in some Christian traditions.
    • Hang fresh evergreen wreaths on the front doors to welcome people to the church. The wreaths not only look festive but wreaths made with conifer branches typically emit an evergreen aroma. Add bows, ornaments or natural materials to add interest to the evergreen wreaths.
    • Decorate with pine boughs and other evergreen materials on the altar, window ledges, or tables in the church. Fresh magnolia also is an alternative to traditional conifer branches in warmer climates.
    • Add decorative greenery to the pews. Fresh greens hung from the end of the church pews adds a festive look to a worship space.
  4. Display a nativity scene in the church. Also called a manger scene or a creche, a nativity scene depicts the birth of Jesus, as described in the Bible. A nativity scene can be 2- or 3-dimensional and usually includes characters from the nativity story like Mary, Joseph, an infant Jesus, shepherds, wise men, angels, camels and barn animals. Some churches display a nativity scene on the altar, while others display the Biblical characters where people can touch them and use them to retell the birth story, such as at the entrance to the church.
  5. Hang banners to decorate a church for Christmas. Because wall spaces typically are much bigger in a church than in a house, it can be difficult to find decorations that are large or impactful enough to fill large wall spaces. Christmas banners can be made or purchased in any size to fit the wall spaces of any worship center. Banners come in a variety of colors and include various design elements, from traditional to modern, that share the Christmas story.
  6. Decorate a church with candles and lights. Christians believe that through the birth of Christ, light overcame darkness in the world. Many churches use candles to symbolize Jesus as the light of the world during the Advent and Christmas seasons. Some churches display lit candles during worship services, while others decorate the altar and other areas of the worship spaces with strings of electric lights.
  7. Decorate a church with poinsettias during the Christmas season. The plant with red and green foliage is native to Mexico and is widely used in holiday floral displays. The plant's association with Christmas began in the 16th century, when a poor, young girl gathered weeds to place on the church altar as a gift for Jesus at Christmas. The weeds sprouted into poinsettias, and thus began a Christmas tradition.
    • Utilize poinsettias to decorate the church altar, welcome worshipers at the entrance of the church or build into large tree-shaped displays.


  • When decorating a church for Christmas, pay attention to the scale of the decorations. In a large worship space, small decorations may be difficult to see. For maximum impact, select fewer decorations that are larger in size.
  • Ensure you purchase enough of each item displayed in the church. For example, if there are 12 windows in the sanctuary, be sure to purchase 12 of the exact same candle to display 1 in each window. Avoid mixing colors and sizes to keep the décor consistent.
  • Choose a color theme when decorating a church at Christmas. Consider the traditional green and red color palette, or perhaps a gold and white color palette. Whatever color combination you choose, keep it consistent throughout the Christmas décor.


  • The purpose of Christmas decorations in a church is to remind worshipers of the birth of Jesus. Decorations should be tasteful and displayed in moderation, so as not to distract church members from the purpose of the worship service.
  • If you choose to use fresh greenery, be sure to water and /or replenish the greenery throughout the season of Advent. Fresh greenery may begin to brown or lose its needles, so plan to replace fresh greenery often throughout the Advent and Christmas seasons.
  • If you light real candles at church during the Christmas season, be sure to replace candles each Sunday to prevent fire hazards. Position buckets filled with sand near any lit candles so the flames can be extinguished quickly in the event of a fire.

Sources and Citations

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