Exploring Christmas colors
Exploring Christmas colors
Decorations adorning homes and businesses in the familiar colors of red and green are popular come the holiday season. Even gift wrap, greeting cards and clothing tend to lean toward red and green as the holiday season hits full swing. It is difficult to think of Christmas without envisioning everything awash in these popular colors, broken up only by the inclusion of gold, white or silver accents. Christmas colors are often taken for granted, and many celebrants are unaware of how these colors became symbols of the holiday season and why they remain so to this day.
Several theories exist as to why red and green became the hallmarks of Christmas. One such theory is that the colors evolved from pagan celebrations similar to the evolution of Christmas traditions. Prior to the arrival of Christianity, many cultures viewed the color green as the symbol of life. It is believed that, during harsh winters, evergreen trees were cut down and brought indoors to symbolize that life still exists and thrives despite the cold and darkness of winter. Other pagan holidays featured the use of green, red and gold, including the festival of Yule.
As Christianity spread across Europe and eventually other parts of the world, red and green were linked to Jesus Christ. Green still represented life, but now this was the eternal life offered by Christ. Red was said to symbolize sacrifice, namely the blood of Jesus when he died on the cross. Some Christians believe that Jesus wore a crown of holly thorns whose berries were originally white. As Jesus’ blood touched the berries, they turned red.
Some theorize that the red of the holiday season represents the apples on the tree of paradise in the Garden of Eden. Around the 14th century, the faithful would put on Paradise Plays on December 24 to share the story of creation with those who could not read. It is nearly impossible to find a fruit-bearing apple tree in the winter, so a pine tree adorned with red apples was used instead. Bishops also wore red robes, further tying the color red to religious masses and celebrations.
Gold is frequently used in holiday decorations as well. Gold can represent the sun and light, both important ways to ward off the dark winter. In addition, gold was one of the gifts brought to baby Jesus, making it a color of significance within the Christian faith.
Red and green poinsettias also are a symbol of the holiday season, but they didn’t start the colorful tradition. Poinsettias are a relatively recent addition to Christmas symbolism, as they were only first introduced to America in 1828, when they were brought back from Mexico by Joel Poinsett.
The holiday season is filled with many different colors that brighten up homes and businesses. Combined with the many twinkling lights used on displays, red and green decorations can add vitality to the dark days of December.