Silver and gold, silver and gold; mean so much more when I see silver and gold decorations on ev’ry Christmas tree
-Johnny Marks, Songwriter
What are the colors traditionally associated with Christmas? Red and Green are quite popular; so are Silver, Gold, White and Blue. Why do we have them and what do the colors represent?
A Long Winter’s Night
Christmas colors and their meanings are passed down from the customs of Western and Northern Europe, where Christmas takes place in the cold, dark winter season. For instance, Europeans would tell Bible stories or stage Paradise plays, often on Christmas Eve. A pine tree with “ornaments” of red apples would stand in for the Paradise tree in the Garden of Eden. Roman citizens would exchange evergreen branches in January as a sign of good luck. The ancient Egyptians would decorate with palm branches during mid-winter festivals. These traditions have influenced the color palate of our modern holiday season. Here’s more:
Red – The red Holly berry is said to represent the blood of Jesus when he died on the cross. Red is also the color of the Bishop’s robes, which are worn by St. Nicholas in the Christmas stories of yore. Today, Santa dons a red and white suit.
Green – Evergreen plants such as holly, ivy and mistletoe have been used for thousands of years to decorate the inside of homes during winter. Now the most familiar use of green at Christmas is that of Christmas trees. The fresh green color is a reminder of springtime approaching.
Gold – As one of the three gifts of the Magi given to the Baby Jesus, gold is traditionally the color of the star that the Three Wise Men follow to find Him. Both gold and red are the colors of sun, light and fire – all needed to keep warm in the cold winter months.
Silver and White – Often associated with purity and peace in western cultures, silver and white are used in many churches at Christmastime. White paper wafers were sometimes used to decorate Paradise trees and represent the bread eaten during Christian Communion or Mass. Plus, winter snow is white!
Blue – In medieval times, blue dye and paint were more expensive than gold. It would only be worn by Royal families or wealthy people. However, blue is often associated with Mary, the mother of Jesus; she is frequently wearing the color that represents the sky and heaven in paintings to illustrate her importance in the Christian religion.
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