The colors of Christmas: red

Last week, I began a series for Advent on the colors of Christmas. This week’s focus is on the color red, one of the most traditional colors associated with the season. I remember a few years ago seeing a friend at church in November wearing a beautiful orange sweater, and she said she was trying to wear it one more time before December fashionistas dictated red as the “must-wear” color.

In Western culture, the color red has widely varying associations: blood, passion or love, danger, stop (like the color of most of the traffic signals I seem to see these days) and many things Christmas (candy canes, Santa’s suit, Rudolph’s nose, bows, holly berries).

Even our expressions use the color in varying ways. You don’t want to be “in the red” (in debt) at the end of the year. The parking deck at the mall may have you “seeing red” (feeling angry) as you struggle to find an open space.

“Red-letter days” are ones we anticipate for their celebrations and importance. We “roll out the red carpet” to celebrities and dignitaries. And we can even “paint the town red” on a fun night out. But we don’t want to get caught “red-handed” (in the act) when we’re snooping to discover the contents of our wrapped Christmas presents.

For Christmas reds, there seems to be no end in what we can find in red. Let’s start with what blooms during this season:

A profusion of nandina berries in my yard

A profusion of nandina berries in my yard

Because of our mild autumn, I still have some red geraniums blooming, a delight that decorates my front porch steps:

Geranium buds

Geranium buds that have been enjoying a mild autumn

And speaking of decorations, I never quite feel like I’ve completely decorated until I have a poinsettia or two, and though I love all the color varieties, red is my favorite:


The great Christmas light debate: white or multi-colored?
I’m not sure when the first colored light bulb was made, but I’m sure it wasn’t soon after that the great Christmas light debate began: white lights or multi-colored.

I grew up with colored lights on our Christmas tree every year, but sometime around middle school or high school, I decided I preferred white lights. I told myself that once I grew up and had my own house to decorate, I’d stick with white lights.

And for many of my early adult years, that was true. All of my lights were white. But after I got married, something in me shifted, or maybe my husband convinced me to give colored lights another try. I began to yearn for the warmth and vibrancy of colored lights. Somehow, white lights felt too cold to me. So slowly but surely, my husband and I started adding colored lights to our stash of Christmas decorations.

A couple of years ago, I knew colored lights had definitely won the battle for my heart. I kept coming across stores that had decorated their windows with a white-flocked Christmas tree with small white lights and big round red light bulbs. The warmth of that combination, the white flocking and the glow of red lights, gripped my imagination. I couldn’t get the tree out of my mind, and then I found one just a week before Christmas, discounted at my favorite local nursery:

This tree is one hot mess, and I don't always mean that in the good way "hot mess" has come to mean.

This tree is one hot mess, and I don’t always mean that in the good way “hot mess” has come to mean.

I love this Christmas tree. I love the warm glow of red reflecting off of the white branches. I don’t love the mess that happens when I put the tree up or take it down, and I especially don’t love how quickly the bulbs burn out. But I can’t help loving this tree.

This little artificial tree has taught me an important lesson about habits and traditions. Without stopping to reexamine my feelings about white Christmas lights, I might never have willingly shifted back to decorating with colored ones. Now, I can’t imagine a year without all the colors lighting up our house, but most especially the red of our little tree.

How about you? Do you have a habit or tradition that it might be time to reexamine? Is it time to let go of a holiday habit that could bring you deeper enjoyment of the season and possibly even free up your schedule? Do you have room for a little more red (the good kind) in your life?

7 thoughts on “The colors of Christmas: red

  1. Pingback: Revisiting the colors of Christmas: Green | The Flourishing Tree

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  4. Pingback: The colors of Christmas: gold | The Flourishing Tree

  5. Pingback: The colors of Christmas: green | The Flourishing Tree

  6. Many! I keep the ones that mean the most to me and add a few new ones to start new traditions. There is plenty of room for more red in my life, there are many “red letter” days in the year to come – and I have no idea what they may be but a bright future awaits us. Christmas blessings! Patty

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