The Colors of Christmas: Red, Green and Gold
Have you ever wondered why red, green and gold are generally considered as the colors of Christmas? Why not orange, purple and blue?
Well, after searching high and low, deep and wide, it appears that the acceptance of red, green and gold as the Christmas colors has both historical and religious origins.
The Origin of Christmas Colors
There are two accepted beliefs about the origin of the Christmas colours, red, green and gold. One is based on Christian tradition, and the other based on historical fact.
Since the early part of the historical fact came before the Christian tradition, this will be explained first.
Pre-Christian Historical Basis of the Green Color of Christmas
Long before Christ was born; green has already been considered as a powerful symbol of mystery and life.
People observed that long after other plants have died during the winter, fir trees and holly bushes have remained evergreen. So they thought that something magical must be making these trees and bushes survive the harshest of winters. These plants were thus worshipped and feared at the same time. From then on, they have come to be associated with the mystery of life and green became the color of life.
Historical records show that the Romans wove wreaths of holly and hang these on their walls and doors to celebrate the winter solstice. These wreaths show that they are looking forward to the "rebirth" of the sun and the return of warmer weather.
Only the color green has pre-Christian origin. The other Christmas colors, red and gold became significant only after the birth of Christ.
Christian Tradition and the Red and Green Colors of Christmas
At around the 4th Century when the church began to celebrate Christ's birth on December 25, many Christians who have adorned their homes with wreaths of holly for the winter solstice, just left the wreaths to decorate their homes during Christmas as well. Thus, the color green and wreaths of holly became associated with the birth of Christ.
If green represents the birth of Christ, red represents the blood of Christ and his death. People at this time also took to adding red berries on their green wreaths of holly. This made the wreaths more eyecatching.
Thus red and green has become associated with the celebration of Christ's birth, death and rising from the dead.
Centuries later, churches started presenting religious plays to help educate the public.
On December 24, churches presented "The Paradise Play", the story of Adam and Eve. Since apple trees are not available during this time of the year, pine trees were used and red apples were hanged on the trees. From then on, pine trees with red apples decorating them have come to be associated with the Christmas season and people started bringing this tree tradition to their homes.
The Gold Color of Christmas
Since decorating pine trees with red apples and hanging wreaths of holly with red berries became a Christian tradition, another color was added to give even more significance to this tradition. This additional color is, gold. It represents the gift of gold from one of the Three Kings. It also signifies the gift of eternal life.
Cultural Significance of Red, Green, and Gold
Red has different meanings in different cultures. Its meaning can range from health, anger, bravery, love, passion, sacrifice, danger, and courage. But its Christmas meaning is the blood of Christ.
Like red, green also has different cultural meanings. It can represent fertility, hope, and environmentalism on the positive side. However, it also has negative connotation such as poison, evil, envy and even death. Still during Christmas, green is the symbol of birth and life that remains vibrant even under harsh conditions.
Gold like red and green, also has both positive and negative cultural meanings. Gold or its base color yellow, can mean both bravery or cowardice. It can also mean both life and sickness. However, its Christmas meaning is that of the richness of eternal life.
The Other Colors of Christmas
Modern Christmas celebrations now use other colors like blue, silver, purple and just about any of the other rainbow colors. However the predominant colors of Christmas are still red, green and gold.
Red, Green and Gold: The Colors of Christmas
The colors of Christmas are best represented by the following lines from a popular song, "Silver Bells":
"...Strings of street lights
Even stop lights
Blink a bright red and green...."
Yes, the colors of Christmas are actually embodied in our street lights that blink red and green and of course gold or yellow for caution.
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