What Winter Symbolism Means: A Guide to the Different Icons of the Season

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winter symbolism

Cold Snap: A Quick Look At The Top Symbolism For Winter

As a season associated with sweaters, mugs of warm chocolate, and cold mornings, winter is a time that represents hope, growth, and new beginnings. While some identify this period of cold with darkness and death, many people see it as an opportunity to reflect on the past year and set new goals.

So, before thinking of escaping to a place where the climate is warmer, let’s first snuggle in on the fascinating symbolism of winter.

winter snow symbolism

Key Takeaways

  • Winter inspires resilience. While nights are noticeably longer during this time, the sun, which appears to be bigger, tells us that brighter and warmer days are on the horizon.
  • Winter symbolizes coldness and harshness. Unquestionably the coldest season of the year, winter is often used in literature to represent the difficult situations and individuals we encounter in life.
  • Winter reminds us of the importance of independence. As everyone knows that no two snowflakes are ever alike, winter tells us to give great value to our individuality. A time of short days and low temperatures symbolizes our ability to bounce back from our difficulties and emerge as better individuals.

Snowy Owls

Often referred to as Polar or Arctic Owls, the snowy owl is perhaps one of the largest owls in the world capable of hunting birds that are larger than them. Admired for their ability to withstand the frigid temperatures of the year’s coldest season, they are some of the most revered symbols for winter.

snowy owl hunting
Snowy Owl hunting

Observed to migrate not to avoid the cold but only when food supplies run low, their typically white feather makes it difficult for bird enthusiasts to spot them in forests blanketed with snow. Their extremely thick, white plumage serves as an extra layer of protection that ensures their safety from both the cold and other potential predators.

Further reading about the snowy owl


Appearing to wear black and white tuxedoes, these extremely sociable creatures’ affinity with snow has made them a winter wonderland staple. A symbol of contrast, resourcefulness, and intuition, the penguin encourages us to adapt to the varying situations we may encounter.


Penguins are admired for their practice of huddling with their peers, which helps keep their bodies warm, particularly their young. They thrive in the presence of their family for it helps them survive the harshness of winter and threats of predators.

Read more about the penguin symbolism


Known to grow thick fur that keeps them comfortable when temperatures go low, coyotes signify intelligence, playfulness, and joy. Coyotes inspire us to use our smarts when confronted with problems and have fun and not take life too seriously.


Often found in Alaska, the Great Plains, as well as Central America, rare breeds of snow coyotes can turn their coats white and blend into the background. Their thick coat allows them to thrive in the cold, while their white color enables them to hide from predators.

Further reading about the Coyote


Evergreens’ leaves are known to keep their green color through all the seasons. Widely used in winter festivals throughout history, the evergreens’ ability to thrive and endure the harshness of winter makes them a symbol of strength, stability, and eternal life. They inspire us to stay hopeful when things don’t work out how we expected.

evergreens symbol for winter

Their use as a popular symbol for winter dates back to the time of Ancient Egyptians. Along with the belief that the Sun God Ra grows weak during the cold months, the freshness of the evergreen tree indicates that better days will soon arrive.


As a season that envelopes some of the most joyful celebrations of the year, winter holds a long history of deep spiritual meanings. Often seen on holiday cards, dinner tables, and as a front porch adornment, the poinsettia heralds the Christmas season and the joy of anticipation it brings.

Poinsettia stands for winter

These vibrant blooms tell us how giving makes us feel happier, inspiring us to give even more and make a difference in other people’s lives.


Considered a flower that signals the arrival of spring, snowdrops symbolize purity and hope for the new year. Known to be the first plants to appear while the ground is still blanketed with snow, these attractive blooms are one of the top winter symbolisms.

snowdrops in snow

Naturally containing anti-freeze proteins, it emerges from the ground come mid-winter to display an attractive bloom that can fill your garden with scent and color.


In many parts of the world, winter is often seen as a season that coincides with the festive Christmas celebration. As such, it doesn’t come as a surprise that some of the traditional figures of the Yuletide season have been viewed as a symbol of winter.

Mistletoes in winter

The mistletoe stays green all winter by stealing from its host’s minerals and water. Its extraordinary ability to withstand the cold even after its host tree has withered makes it a powerful symbol of resilience. It has also been widely seen as a symbol of hope, which is one of the essential messages that Christmas brings.


Boasting a tree that grows up to 30 feet, the holly tree has been considered sacred and is believed to bring messages of peace and goodwill. Producing fruits that are in their brightest colors come mid-winter, represents the joy of the Christmas celebrations that are about to occur. It is one of the favored signs that the season of cold has arrived.

holly tree winter symbol What Winter Symbolism Means: A Guide to the Different Icons of the Season

As the tree serves as our protection from the bitter winter winds, it reminds us to keep ourselves safe from the challenges the coming year brings. Apart from helping lessen the effects of a long frigid winter, hollies have been associated with the re-emergence of the sun during the mid-winter solstice.

Protection needed?

Throughout the centuries, people across different cultures have consistently come to a similar conclusion- an amulet that you can wear every day wherever you go is your best defense against evil. We put together the top 3 most potent amulets for you.

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Candy canes

Representing the canes that were used by the shepherds on the night of Jesus’ birth, canes have been an object that implies prestige and strength. It is believed to have been first given out by a choirmaster to his young singers to keep them quiet during long ceremonies.

Candy canes winter symbolism

Considered one of the more popular and tasty symbols of winter, the candy cane’s sweetness reminds us of the joy we feel by adding a touch of compassion and kindness to our lives.


Initially referred to as the “forbidden fruit,” the grapefruit is a delicious and nutritious treat that comes packed with a host of health benefits. In season during the frigid winter months, it symbolizes self-love and restoration, both of which inspire us to nourish personal growth.

grapefruit winter months

A citrus fruit that features a sour, semi-sweet, and bitter fusion of flavors, it prepares us for the burst of colors that takes place at the arrival of spring.

The color red

A hue that we often link with love, strength, and passion, the color red is perhaps one of the most exciting among winter symbolisms. Reminding us of berries and plants that add charm to our yard during the cold months, this color inspires us to endure the cold and dark winter months.

color red in winter

Highly associated with the sun, it provides us with the warmth that many of us need as we go through the jacket, ear muffs, and mittens season.

The color white

A color that plays contrast to the darkness of the season, the color white is well-known to stand for peace, innocence, and illumination. Sporting the color of snow, it is associated with serenity and calmness, which are often all we need to achieve inner peace.

white red in winter

The white color teaches us how to be mild in words, thoughts, and behavior, for being calm helps overcome our anxieties and fears.

White candles

Traditionally used as a way to honor gods and later taken by Christians who lit them during Advent, candles remind us that warmer and brighter days are ahead. They provide us with the light to help us stay focused on what we truly desire.

white candles winter

Admired for their ability to calm our minds in times of distress and anxiety, white candles bring about balance and harmony (read about chakra candles here), which help us accept people as they are.

Polar bears

Although tiny, toothless, and helpless at birth, polar bears grow to be the largest land carnivores on the planet. Their fondness for snow and the cold and their ability to endure the most frigid conditions have easily made them a symbol of both Christmas and winter.

polar bear

These colossal creatures remind us how our skills and talents are often enough to get us through difficult times. 

Read more about the polar bear


How can a winter list ever be complete without these cool, powdery tidbits? A winter staple that symbolizes joy, individuality, and rebirth, snowflakes teach us to remain upbeat even when faced with life’s countless ups and downs.


Often seen slowly falling to earth, its ability to blanket the planet with purity and cleanliness enables us to make good choices.

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Author: Rachel Meyer
Meet Rachel, a veterinarian in Pasadena, California, and a valued contributor to our blog. Rachel brings a wealth of expertise to the table, with a particular focus on the intersection of symbolism, nature, and spirituality. She shares her knowledge and insights on our blog on regular basis.

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