The Contemporary New England Witch

The Contemporary New England Witch
Ms Faith

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The colors of the season, red and green, why were they chosen?

 Evening Greetings,

My Goodness! In my attempt to discern the origins of the colors of Christmas, typically red and green, I came to see this discussion will have another lesson to impart.  What I have called "How to think like a witch" in my work with new students.  A witch tends to look at things a bit differently from accepted societal expectations and conventions.  But really, that's not a big surprise. Just to call yourself a witch you would tend towards the non-typical, wouldn't you?

Let me discuss with you the origins of the colors chosen to represent Christmas and I'll show you a bit of what I'm referring to.  I had heard for years of a pagan connection with the colors, and had heard that they could be attributed to the Celts.  Being pagan I was good with the concept, but then I started serious research, with credible sources and sticking with the general consensus amongst experts in the field.  I do use information available on the Internet sparingly and with reserve, preferring published works from credible experts and specialists. 

At the start of my search I started to run into all kinds of stories that claim to be the real story as to why red and  green are the 'official' colors of Christmas.  Yet the stories all fell short for various reasons, and most just didn't 'fit' with what we already know about the history of Christmas.

For instance, a common story speaks of 14th century 'miracle plays'.  These plays were put on by the local churches for the benefit of the populace. As much of the general public was illiterate during these dark ages, the church in its constant onslaught to convert and teach the masses the lessons it felt were warranted, presented these plays as an entertainment that would present the church's accepted religious views to the people.

It became popular to present a miracle play on Christmas eve called 'The Paradise Play'  which is the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, taken from the Book of Genesis.  It is rumored that pine trees were substituted for apple trees 'because apple trees weren't available in winter' and apples were hung off of the branches, thus uniting the green and red.   Hmmmm.  Really?

They would have had access to apple trees in the winter, they're still in the orchards, they just go dormant. But I assure you, cutting down and then propping up indoors an apple tree would be a very difficult chore.  The very nature of this type of tree does not support this usage.  Then when you consider the incredible weight of this type of tree,  due to the mass of wood, and the expanse of the branches compared to an evergreen tree, it makes it a ridiculous thought to set up apple trees indoors.  These plays also utilized props and scenery made much as on a modern stage today, so substitutes were a possibility.  We continue to put up Christmas trees this time of year and have for hundreds of years because its fairly simple to do as well as it being  tradition.

This story also goes on to say that this is why people started putting up Christmas trees in their homes to emulate the church.  And its a good story, except it neglects to consider hundreds of years of cultural beliefs and legends from the Germanic peoples who migrated out of Scandinavia and brought their spiritual lore with them,  that we just discussed earlier this week.People were honoring the evergreen tree for centuries before Medieval miracle plays.  So I discounted this as the origins of the color choices. 

The churches teachings during the dark ages, which went along with the mass unification of the Christian church throughout Europe, had the effect of  presenting history as if the entire human race's history spanned just a few hundred years rather than tens of thousands of years.  Many stories were created to fit the church's specific world view, to answer those questions that were deemed appropriate to be asked and answered. When the church made the Yuletide winter solstice into Christ's Mass, it needed to create the entire mythology anew, they just kept the bones of the ancient mythologies which made it easier for the resistant to convert.  "You can call it Christmas, we'll still burn a Yule log, feast and drink and celebrate the return of the sun", which is what happened. The people just wanted to keep their traditions, no matter what you dressed them up as.

There is a belief that the color scheme was of Celtic origin, and this has merit, as the Celtic migratory tribes first originated in the Eastern most parts of Europe, Scandinavia and the Slavic regions. It is possible that the tradition of the winter colors set down in antiquity traveled with them only to be morphed and evolve into what we know today.

I even read some concepts as to why red and green are the colors of Yuletide, that to me are outlandish and downright silly! One such Internet source goes into great detail as to how the colors of not only Christmas but of Santa Claus was determined by the mind altering use of fly ageric. This 'expert' claims that everyone was tripping on poisonous mushrooms all over Europe before vodka was discovered in the east.  What? Trust me historical research assures us that alcoholic beverages were made and consumed in Europe much more than poisonous mushrooms that would kill you if eaten and long before vodka was discovered. They had no need for vodka.

Fly agaric is a toxic substance that can produce a hallucinogenic effect if taken in microscopic quantities. To consume any is to risk death! He then went on to prove his point by suggesting that since the toxic qualities stayed suspended n human urine that people would then drink others urine to get intoxicated. What? Alright now, I think I've had about enough of this nonsense!  Seriously, be smart when using on-line sources, and try very hard to verify the information from a credible published source before making up your mind about something. At the very least get a consensus from a group of expert opinions.

Let me give you my personal opinion as to why the colors of Yuletide and Christmas are green and red. Being a witch I have learned that when information around me isn't resonating within me, in other words it just doesn't sit well with me, then I look within.  This time I closed my eyes and thought about winter. Well, having grown up in the countryside of New England, surrounded by forests and fields, pastureland and meadows I know the color of the winter landscape is pretty monochromatic. White, with shades of grays and neutrals. 

If you walk through the winter forest you will see two 'bright' colors predominant besides the whites and neutrals.  The green of the evergreens, firs, pines, spruces and hemlocks and the reds of the berries that the birds eat throughout the winter.  It just makes simple common sense that these colors are representative of the winter season.

Two other colors that seem to give red and green a run for their money during the Yuletide holiday season  are gold and silver.  I'm not even going to look up the suspected reasons for this. I don't have to. To me the color silver always represents the Goddess, as silver is her metal and it represents the moon, her symbol.  Gold represents the God, as gold is his metal and represents the Sun, his symbol.

The dark half of the year is the realm of the Crone in pagan belief. Yet, for Christians the God is born at this time, with the male taking dominance for a portion of this time.  The pagans see the dance between the God and Goddess as they travel around the wheel of the year.  We'll discuss this dance of the gods at another time. But they are both present in some form, during the turning of the wheel. It seems even more significant today, as the pagan traditions have been woven into the Christian religious mythologies so that many of the stories no longer have distinct separations where the pagan stops and the Christian begins. 

During this season the blend of pagan and Christian symbolism are both predominant and I believe they blend beautifully making our traditions an amalgamation of the very best of both ancient cultures, pagan and early Christian.  I can see a metaphoric comparison between all we cherish about this holiday and the state of mankind in relationship with itself.

I'll leave you with the real lesson of the discussion.  Read, study, learn if this world is of interest to you. Be skeptical, question and practice to find out and know how the magick works through you. Use common sense and if it feels not quite right, pay attention to yourself. The answer already lies within you. What doesn't feel right, leave aside. It's not meant for you.

Let me tell you a secret.   Everyone has the magick move through them, sometimes they even sense it. That doesn't make you special, anymore than anyone else, but the witch  .  .  .  well, its what she does with it. How she uses the magick to know what will work best for her.  If you focus on bringing that into your world, then you'll feel how special it truly is. 

Peace and Happiness

© 2010 Enchantments, LLC Portions of this blog posting may include materials from my book “Enchantments School for the Magickal Arts First Year Magickal Studies.” For more information, see or go to the title of tonight's discussion and click, it will link you to my school's website. If you know someone who would like my work, please send them this link. If you or they would like to be included on our daily email distribution list send me an e mail with your email address to be included. If you ever wish to unsubscribe to this blog, please contact me and you will be immediately removed from our list.

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