Every year, we decorate our houses in red and green. But red and green are not the only colours; white, gold, blue and purple also belong to this list. Traditional Christmas colours have religious and historical origins from western/northern European traditions and customs from when Christmas was in the middle of winter and it was dark and cold.
What are the traditional colours associated with Christmas?
For thousands of years, evergreen plants, like holly, ivy and mistletoe have been used to decorate and brighten up buildings during the long dark winters, as a reminder that spring would follow and that winter wouldn't last forever!
The Romans would exchange evergreen branches of mistletoe, ivy, and holly in January as a sign of good luck. The ancient Egyptians, would bring palm branches in their houses during the midwinter festivals.
The colour green has been considered the colour of life and mystery, even before Jesus Christ was born. While every other tree dies during the winter, only holly bushes and fir trees remain evergreen. People probably thought that it was some kind of magic that helped these trees survive the harsh weather. Thus, these two plants were both feared and worshipped at the same time. And ever since, the colour green came to be associated with life.
Paradise Plays were performed in several countries of Europe during the Middle Ages on the Christmas Eve. The play narrated the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. These plays were Bible stories read to people who couldn’t read. The “Paradise Tree” featured in the play was located in the garden of Eden. It was basically a pine tree with red apples tied to it. Now the most common use of green at Christmas is of course the Christmas tree!
RedAn early use of red at Christmas were the apples on the Paradise Tree. They represented the fall of Adam in the Paradise Plays. Since apple trees were barren during winter, people would manually tie apples to the tree branches to signify the Tree of good and evil. As time passed, people began replicating this practice in their homes as well to became the tradition of decorating Christmas trees in red, be it apples or ornaments.
Red is also the colour of Holly berries, which is said to represent the blood of Jesus. This was one significant reason why people started adding red berries to their holly wreaths. It didn’t just make it eye-catching, but also made a powerful reference. Since then, the colour red and green have became associated with Christmas
Red is also the colour of Bishops robes. These would have been worn by St. Nicholas and this is how it became the colour of Santa’s clothes.
GoldGold, the colour of the sun, stars and light - both very important in the cold dark winter months. And both red and gold are the colours of fire that you need to keep you warm.
Gold was also one of the many presents the three wise men brought to baby Jesus, and traditionally it is the colour the colour of the star the wise men followed.
Silver is sometimes used instead of (or with) gold.
WhiteSpotless, sinless and pure, white is also often associated with light, purity and peace, and of course the winter snow!
White paper wafers were sometimes used to decorate Paradise Trees, these represented the bread eaten during Christian Communion or Mass.
White is used by most churches as the colour of Christmas, when the altar is covered with a white cloth (in the Russian Orthodox Church Gold is used for Christmas).
BlueBlue represents the colour of water, the sky, night and heaven and is often associated with Mary, mother of Jesus, who was was often painted wearing blue to show she was very important because in medieval times blue dye and pigment were more expensive than gold, the colour blue would only be worn by wealthy people or royal families.
The colour of royalty and sovereignty of Jesus Christ, and the reception and anticipation of the coming King celebrated during Advent. Today, several churches use blue instead of purple.
How will you colour your Christmas this year?