The colors of Advent and Christmas

For most people, the holidays mean red and green, perhaps a vestige of the "paradise trees" hung with apples that were forerunners of our modern Christmas trees.

But in traditional churches at this time of year, you'll see different colors. Purple is the main color for the Advent season, though some churches prefer deep or royal blue. For the third Sunday of Advent — the Sunday of Joy — the chosen color is rose (pink) to reflect the joy in our hearts as Christmas nears. White and gold are the traditional colors for Christmas.


Here's some further insight on these color choices. In church tradition, purple is associated with sorrow, prayer, and penitence. It's the liturgical color for Lent, and history suggests that Advent developed as a kind of parallel to Lent — both are seasons of preparing for the great celebratory feasts, Christmas and Easter.

To distinguish Advent from Lent, many Protestant churches, including Anglicans and Lutherans, use deep or royal blue instead of purple. I, personally, prefer the blue. It symbolizes royalty — a coming King. It’s also the color of the sky in the cold, dark hours just before dawn. Blue perfectly reflects the expectant, hope-filled themes of Advent. 

The Sunday of Joy marks the midway point of Advent. It's a turning point in the season, and the mood lightens as we begin our joyous preparations for Christmas! The third candle of the Advent wreath is often rose (pinkas a symbol of joy.


Finally, white and gold mean joy, celebration, triumph, glory, and purity. They're the colors for both Christmas and Easter. The Christ candle at the center of the Advent wreath, which is lit on Christmas Day and throughout the 12-day Christmas season, is often white or gold.

Red and green will always be popular during this season, but consider using some of the traditional colors in your own holiday practices. If your church follows a particular color pattern for the season, use that in your home. Otherwise, find out what others in your church are doing, and do it together! The journey through Advent and Christmas, as with all seasons of the Church Calendar, is more joyous when done in community.

For more information, check out our Advent practices pages: Advent Wreath and Decorating the Home.