Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Origin of Christmas Colors and The Christmas Tree

Ever wonder why the colors of red, green and gold are used at Christmas?  And how the Christmas tree became such a part of the Christmas tradition?  Well, following is a brief summary of the origins of these practices.

The Origins of Green and Red as Christmas Colors:
During the 4th century, the Church adopted the practice of celebrating December 25 as the birth date of Jesus Christ.  Christians were already accustomed to hanging wreaths of holly in their homes during this time to celebrate the winter solstice, and they eventually began leaving the wreaths up during Christmas.  This lead to the association of green with Christmas.  The circular shape of the wreath became associated with the eternal of life of Jesus Christ as well as representing the crown of thorns placed on his head during his crucifixion.  The red holly berries represented the blood shed by Christ.

The Origins of the Christmas Tree Tradition:
The color green became a permanent part of the Christmas tradition over the next few centuries.  More specifically, the evergreen tree was associated by early Christians with eternal life.

The production of Miracle Plays by the Church during the 14th century led to the tradition of Christmas trees. The purpose of Miracle Plays was to educate the mostly illiterate public about Christianity.  One such play called The Paradise Play, traditionally performed each year on December 24, told the story of Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden.  Since there were no apple trees available that time of year, apples were hung on a pine tree to represent the Tree of Good and Evil.  

Eventually churches began using pine trees decorated with apples as part of their Christmas celebrations.  Families soon adopted the practice putting pine trees with apple decorations in their own homes at Christmas.

Thus was born the tradition of using the colors green and red at Christmas, as well as the use of evergreens as part of the Christmas celebration.

How Did the Color Gold Become Associated with Christmas?
Over the course of time, the color of gold was added as a Christmas color to represent the Gift of Gold from one of the Three Kings.

This post is meant to be only a very brief summary of the origins these Christmas colors and traditions.  There are many other events and pieces of information that can be linked to our current Christmas customs and rituals.  Here are some helpful informational links I used in writing this post:

The Origin of Christmas Colors
The Colors of Christmas: Red, Green and Gold
Christmas Wreaths (Its Meaning, History and Types)

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