Thursday, January 04, 2007

Why are red and green Christmas colors?

Does anyone actually know?

I did a pretty quick Internet search, and didn't turn up anything that seemed insightful to me.

One thought that has occurred to me, which I offer for you to critique:

Recall what I posted on Christmas Eve about the Christmas Tree originating from the Paradise Tree that was the central feature of "mystery plays" held on Decembe 24, during the years of high Christendom in Europe (ca. AD 1000-1400)...

Recall how those trees were decorated -- with fruit; very likely, with apples (both due to the similarity between malus, the Latin word for "bad, evil" as in, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Bad, and malum, the Latin word for apple, and because what other fruit would be available in December?)...

Picture the scene: a fir tree decorated with apples . . . what colors do you see?

A GREEN TREE adorned with RED APPLES? (And perhaps some green or yellow apples too?)

Just wondering . . . If anyone has anything scholarly or authoritative to offer, chime in...


Anonymous said...

Nothing scholarly, nothing authoritative. Just a hunch that you may be on to something. :-)

Anonymous said...

On Ask Jeeves for kids, I didn't get an answer for your specific question but I did find this.

One of the most popular Christmastime accoutrements, holly has sharp edges, symbolic of the crown of thorns worn by Jesus at his crucifixion. The red berries represent blood.

Here you can read for yourself, scroll down the page, or enjoy reading about the other Christmas traditions.

You may have to cut and paste it into your Address box.

It may have something to do with the Christmas Hymn:The Holly and the Ivy

More Christmas trivia here:

Fr Martin Fox said...


I saw that -- not necessarily at that site -- about the holly, with it's red and green.

But the question is which is cause, which is effect? Are red and green Christmas colors because of holly's association with the day; or is holly associated with the day, because its red and green? See my point?

Anonymous said...

I think that may be answered in the hymn the Holly and the Ivy. They are both full grown in Winter and the Holly has the sharp edges of the thorns of Christ's Crown, a white flower of the purity of Mary, His Mother, and the red berries of His blood shed for US.

I am pretty sure the plant came to represent the Christmas miracle because of the time the Nativity was finally established, as the days begin to get longer.

But if you definitive and scholarly proof, I have none, yours is just as valid as mine.

Maybe someone has the answer you are looking for.

BTW Hope you had a Happy New Year, and God bless 2007 for you.

Ellen said...

Interesting question. I hope some one can come up with the answer. I do like the theory about the holly, but it is like the old question "what came first - the chicken or the egg?"

An off shoot of this might be why we associate pastel colors with the secular celebration of Easter - why not purple and white to go with the passion and resurrection?

Anonymous said...

Purple and White?

Why, that goes with Elder High School!

Anonymous said...

I think the connection was made by the Neil Diamond masterpiece "Holly Holy."

Ellen said...

Fr. Kyle,

They were my school colors at Phoenixville High School!

Anonymous said...

It's probably something as simple as the green of evergreens and the red of St. Nick's garb. Add a little commercialism, and there ya be!

Anonymous said...

My pastor explains the symbolism behind Christmas trees every Christmas -- the evergreen symbolizes eternity (both God's eternal existence and that of the human soul) since it remains green all year.

I personally am partial to the theory (perhaps shared only by myself) that the green represents the evergreen and eternity (specifically God's) and the red represents Christ's blood. So the colors green & red then represent the celebration of the eternal God taking on the nature of man in order to shed his blood for the forgiveness of man's sins.