The Importance of Christmas Colors

The traditional red and green colors of Christmas have a long and rich history rooted in both paganism and Christianity. To celebrate Saturn, the god of agriculture, Romans set aside the days from December 17 to December 25 as special holidays. Exchanging greenery such as holly and ivy was a way to wish one another long life, peace and good luck. Early Christians chose to stamp this tradition with a more spiritual emphasis. They renamed it Christmas as a mass for Christ, and red became the sacred color associated with His sacrificial life and death.

Throughout the years, green, the color that represents life, nature, peace, eternity and the hope of the future, has been important, especially to families trying to survive the harsh conditions that winter brings. Whether this has meant decorating a house with palm branches in Egypt, bringing in an evergreen Christmas tree in Germany or stringing green garlands across a fireplace mantle in Vermont, this color is a reminder that the earth may appear asleep, but spring and reawakening are just a few short months away.

While red is an important symbol of Christ's birth and death, it also reminds the world to celebrate His selfless love and sacrifice. Holly berries, the red robes of church bishops, and red apples on the pine trees of medieval miracle plays were the forerunners of Rudolph's red nose, and Santa’s familiar crimson suit. In Mexico, the beloved red poinsettia is a common Christmas decoration that reminds families of the star that hovered over Bethlehem so long ago. The red amaryllis and Christmas cactus also bring this beloved color into the season. In Argentina, red and white garlands are hung over doorways during November and December.

Although trends are slowly changing, red and green remain the most universally accepted colors of Christmas, but they are not alone. Gold, silver, white and blue also have a place at many festivities. Gold is symbolic of the one of the gifts brought by the magi to the Christ child and of the star that led them from the East. Find this warm, rich color in every crackling fireplace and flickering candle light.

Pairing gold with black is one of the sophisticated new Christmas decorating choices for 2012. Think black tree with gold garlands and ornaments, gold candles sitting on black holders, and gold tablecloths with black dinnerware. This look is sophisticated and elegant and the perfect setting for an adult holiday dinner party. If gold and black seems a bit too edgy, what about using a deep golden yellow as your foundation color this year? Enjoy its warm glow, and create a magical appeal with lots of glitter.

For a more "Winter-Wonderland" approach, consider a white or silver tree with retro orange, pink, red and purple decorations. Silver and green together also creates an exciting icy effect. A still-popular choice from 2011 is turquoise with sky-blue and violet. Gray and cream, white and brown, and blue and black are other striking alternatives to the usual Christmas reds and greens. As long as you are able to capture those traditional holiday feelings of love and celebration, your Christmas décor can be every bit as unique as you are.