Colors of Christmas

It’s interesting all holidays, especially Christmas, are based so frequently upon superstitions, wondrous representations and mystical beliefs. I have to wonder if some bored individual sat in a chair, tapped their fingers like the Grinch, and came up with a brilliant idea to announce as a new custom. The basic colors of the season, red, and green, is one such bizarre association to this holiday.

Can you recall your elementary school years when teachers announced they were decorating the classroom or hallway for Christmas? They handed out huge packs of construction paper and paste, and the class made one long paper ring garland. Every color choice was available, and it was up to you to decide what looked the prettiest and best.

I vividly recollect a year when one of my fellow students made his rings in every different colored paper. One little classmate told the teacher, “His garland isn’t Christmassy! He has yellow, white, and blue rings in his chain!” The teacher’s response was, “Who said Christmas is only red and green? You have multi-colored lights on your Christmas tree, right?” Point well taken! So, how did we end up with these two shades representing the holiday? After all, primitive facts reveal all colors were used for this festive celebration.For sure, someone’s creative mind went into overdrive!

In the 14th century, churches built partitions, called rood screens, to separate the congregation from the priests and the altar. They also represented the end of the old year and the start of a new one. These elaborate wood displays of biblical figures were often painted red and green with just touches of other hues. In those days, these complementary tones were the easiest paint colors to purchase; it was difficult to find different hues.

Rood screen image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons; All Saints Church
Rood screen image courtesy of petergoodearl.co.uk; Risborough Church

But, you can also find red and green Christmas colors in medieval times. Ancient Celts used holly to decorate their entire home for the Winter Solstice. Their superstitions believed it kept their homes and families safe. The holly, of course, is green with red berries.

During the Middle Ages in Europe, ‘The Paradise Tree’ was a popular play held on Christmas Eve. It depicted Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. They used a pine tree and attached red apples as stage props. Was this the basis of the green Christmas tree and red of the forbidden fruit, which later, the Victorians displayed during the holidays? Perhaps, so. There isn’t evidence to support the theory, but it sure sounds logical.

Moving forward in time to 1930, Coca-Cola decided to hire a gentleman, named Haddon Sundblom, to create a character representing the Christmas season. Artists never cease to amaze me! Their imagination prolifically abounds as they design in their own mind. This man generated the contemporary appearance of Santa Claus – the red suit on a fatman, a white beard, and a red floppy hat trimmed in white fur. Yes, this was his own image because the Father Christmas of olden days wore green, blue and red robes and was depicted as very skinny. Maybe he reflected on the red robes worn by Bishops at Christmas and then later used in the image of St. Nicholas in Europe. Who knows?

First original Santa character drawn for Coca-Cola by Haddon Sundblom
Father Christmas

Today, Christianity significantly endorses red and green as the colors of Christmas. Green represents our everlasting God and eternal life. Red, as in the shade of berries, portrays the blood of Jesus shed to cleanse our sins. However, silver, gold, and the purity of white are a close runner-up too. In any case, all these colors have one thing in common – they are the basic shades of God’s creations in nature. Let us thank Him now for the beauty of the season!

Be sure to join us again Sunday, December 23rd for another “Everything Christmas Blog!”


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10 thoughts on “Colors of Christmas

  1. Thank you for this teaching I recall seeing those picture in my History books of the “Medieval Times” doing my college days. I’m very much teachable. You brought back memories of the “Contruction paper ring garland we use to make in grade school. 🙂

  2. Beautiful and I learned so much, especially about Santa being thin and designed heavy by Coke. Very Interesting, and oh, how we need the Christmas prayer to ring true, abolishing hate and rejoicing in love for each other.

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