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Colorful Christmas

We all know that the most popular Christmas colors are red and green but there are other colors too such as gold. A good deal of the colors and their symbolism come from northern or western European traditions and customs. Sort of like brightening up everything when in the wintertime everywhere you look it’s gray and bleak and nighttime is so long and brings the darkness with it. I believe this is also why there is silver tinsel placed on the tree so that it can brighten up even the darkest corners.

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The Mistletoe, the Holly, and the Ivy are evergreen plants that bring the color of green into Christmas. These plants also remind everyone of the green which comes in the spring and that winter will eventually be over. In January the Romans would exchange evergreen branches as a symbol of luck. During mid-winter festivals, the ancient Egyptians would bring palm branches into their houses.

In the Middle Ages in lots of places in Europe Paradise plays were performed on Christmas Eve. In the play the “Paradise Tree” there was a pine tree with red apples strung on it. Bible stories were told to people who couldn’t read. It also makes me think of all of the Christmas plays that I participated in school especially Latvian school where every year I got to dress up as an angel.

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The color red was represented by the apples used in the Christmas plays and by the red berries on Holly. The red Holly berries also represented the blood of Jesus when he died on the cross. It is also the color of Bishop’s robes. Red was first worn by St. Nicholas and of course later became the color of Santa’s coat and pants. I wonder what we would all think if perhaps Santa was dressed all in black.

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The color of the sun and light to brighten the darkest of winters comes from the color gold. The mingling of the colors gold and red represent the fires that keep us warm in the winter if we happen to have fireplaces or they can be the flames that radiate from candles. One of the presents which the Wise Men brought to the baby Jesus was gold and of course, it is the color to reflect the star which the Wise Men followed.

Silver can also be a color to radiate light but it isn’t as warm as gold. It is the chosen color though for tinsel which we hang from the tree branches and can reflect the warm glow of candles nearby.

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The white purity of freshly fallen snow is a lot of times associated with purity and peace. There were times when white paper wafers were used to decorate the paradise trees of yesteryear. The wafers were used to symbolize the bread which was eaten during Christian Communion or Mass when Christians remembered that Jesus had died for them.

White is also the chosen Christmas color used by a lot of churches and the altars are covered with white cloth. However, in the Russian Orthodox Church gold is the chosen color for Christmas.

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It is interesting to learn that the color which is most associated with Mary who was the mother of Jesus is the color blue. Since blue dye and paint were more expensive than even gold in the Middle Ages then blue was the color which could only be worn by Royal families and people who were rich. Therefore Mary was depicted in paintings wearing blue to show how very important she was.

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Blue, of course, is also the color of the sky and heaven above. During the time of Advent when we eagerly look forward to Christmas the color blue or purple is used in most churches for the altar cloth. The Russian Orthodox Church uses the color red for Advent. Once the fourth Advent has come and gone we can settle back and wait for the Christmas magic when that man in the red coat comes into our homes or when the love of family and friends surrounds us and makes our holidays merry.

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