Deborah Carducci’s Monday post about how we can make our homes festive and fun for the holidays got us thinking about the colors of the holidays.
We’ve seen fabulous trees, mantles and garlands of many colors – pink, white, blue, silver – festooned with decorations in bright and even neon colors. It’s fun to see the homes of family and friends decorated in modern ways that match their decor, or are just wildly fun.
We’re guessing many of us in New England grew up with live or faux green Christmas trees topped with stars or angels, and decorations in traditional colors – mostly gold, blue, red, white, and green. And candles in the windows (remember the days before timers and remotes when you had to run around and plug in each one, and then had to remember to unplug them before bed?).
We wanted to find out and why these decorations and colors became traditional and learn about their significance. We learned most of the meaning of these colors comes to us from northern and western European countries…
Christmas Trees – this very ancient custom of giving an evergreen tree or boughs a place of honor began in ancient Rome during the festival of Saturnalia. Pagans used branches of evergreen fir trees during the winter solstice to decorate their homes. Today, many Christians consider the evergreen (real or faux) Christmas tree a symbol of everlasting life.
Star Tree Topper – the gold or silver star people place on top of a Christmas tree symbolizes the star of Bethlehem which guided the Magi to the manger. It’s also the heavenly sign of a prophecy fulfilled of a shining hope for humanity.
Angel Tree Topper – symbolizes the angels who appeared in the night sky above Bethlehem to announce Jesus’ birth.
Candles – those candles you see in windows and on trees symbolize Jesus as the light of the world. They can also symbolize a light in your window to welcome a lonely traveler in from the dark, cold winter night.
Bright Baubles – the bright colors of the round balls you see on trees and other decorations are thought to attract benevolent spirits. Their shape is a symbol of wholeness and perfection, and it also recalls the shape of the fruits and nuts which were the original tree decorations….
- Green – like the tree, symbolizes eternal life in Jesus, and to remind us of the promise of new life in the spring to come.
- Red – this color symbolizes the blood of Jesus. And, early use of red at Christmas was meant to remind us of original sin by representing the apples on the tree of knowledge in Eden (a bit of a downer at Christmastime…).
- Gold – represents the gold Melchior – one of the Magi – brought the newborn Jesus, and the star that led the Magi to Him. Gold also reminds us of the Sun, light and fire which were so important in a long, cold, dark winter when most people didn’t have ready access to sources of light.
- White – this color commemorates the purity of Jesus; many churches use white cloths to cover altars at Christmas.
- Blue – this is the color of the robes in which Mary, Mother of God is often shown. Blue dye and paint were more expensive than gold in medieval times, and were available only to royalty. So depicting Mary in blue robes and using blue baubles honors Mary’s importance.
Now that we know what each of these things and colors signify, it will bring more meaning to decorating this year. Then again, we did love that photo of our cousins’ fuchsia tree with the silver baubles….