These Are the Real Meanings Behind the Colors of Easter
Easter brings with it much joyful celebration. Spring arrives, flowers bloom, and certain colors become ubiquitous in the holiday's religious festivities. Several colors are associated with Easter and have deep symbolic meanings in Christian contexts. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, these associations began as early as the 1100s, when Pope Innocent III set out descriptions of the appropriate colors to be used during specific liturgical proceedings. Today, many of these colors are still used to celebrate the Easter season. Purple, pink, red, black, white, gold, and green are seven such colors—read on to learn about what these hues represent during Easter.
Purple is associated with Lent, the religious period of fasting, penance, almsgiving, and prayer that begins on Ash Wednesday and lasts 40 days as it leads up to Easter, the celebration of Christ's resurrection.
During this time, clergy wear purple vestments (a ceremonial outer garment worn by priests, ministers, and clergy) and alters, lecterns, and pulpits are adorned with purple cloth in Christian churches.
The symbolism of the color purple in this context has to do with penitence, remembrance, royalty, and spiritual wealth.
The color purple is linked to Jesus leading up to his crucifixion in John 19:2: "And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and they put on him a purple robe…"
Here, Jesus was mocked as the King of Jews with a purple robe. Purple was the color of choice of royalty during the Roman Empire because it was the most labor-intensive, expensive color to create.
At Easter, rosy pink hues are also symbolic. Pink symbolizes jubilant new beginnings and joyful hope. It's reminiscent of the pink found in the sky at the dawn of a new day.
In the Christian church, rose is color of Laetare Sunday, the fourth Sunday of Lent, and 21 days before Easter. Laetare means "to rejoice," and this Sunday is meant to be a break during Lent's time of sorrow and penance and to remind us of the upcoming celebration of Easter. On Laetare Sunday, rose vestments and alter cloths are used.
The color red represents the blood of Jesus Christ, which, in the context of Easter, is shed for the sake of humanity. It signifies love, suffering, and ultimate sacrifice.
Red is associated with Holy Week, the week starting with Palm Sunday, the sixth Sunday of Lent, and ending on Easter Sunday. Holy Week reflects on the days leading up to Jesus' death and resurrection, beginning with Palm Sunday, which commemorates "Jesus Christ's triumphal entry into Jerusalem," according to Encyclopedia Britannica.
On this day, palms are blessed and distributed to worshipers, reflecting how Jesus's disciples welcomed him into Jerusalem with palm branches as in John 12: 12-13: "On the next day much people that were come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, Took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord."
Red is also the color of Pentecost, the 50th and last day of Easter, symbolizing "joy and the fire of the Holy Spirit."
"It commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles and other disciples following the Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Ascension of Jesus Christ," cites the Encyclopedia Britannica.
On Pentecost Sunday, known as the birthday of the Christian Church, churches are decorated with red, which is also worn by clergy and lay people.
Black is used as a symbol of mourning and has associations related to fasting, mercy, and penance, which are especially appropriate during the Lenten period. Sanctuaries are often veiled in black on Good Friday, a somber day that marks the suffering and death of Jesus on the cross.
Good Friday, the Friday before Easter, is observed with fasting, almsgiving, and church, prayer, and vigil services.
At Easter, the color white symbolizes purity, grace, and, ultimately, the resurrection of Jesus Christ, which is the joyful culmination of the Easter season.
On this holiday, white Easter lilies are displayed in churches and homes because they "symbolize the purity of Christ, who was free from sin," writes Southern Living digital associate editor Mary Shannon Wells, "The trumpet shape of the Easter lily represents a trumpet sounding the message that Jesus has risen."
During the Easter season, glimmering gold represents glory and triumph, specifically Jesus' resurrection and triumph over death, which is celebrated during the Easter season. Gold is often used with white in Easter services displayed on vestments and church decorations.
Green represents rebirth and the promise of eternal life, symbolism that is especially apt during the Easter season, when themes of sacrifice, resurrection, and new beginnings abound.
In the Christian church, green symbolizes growth and is the color used during Ordinary Time, which falls outside of the seasons of Advent through Epiphany and Lent through Pentecost.
What are your favorite Easter colors? Which colors and their meanings do you most closely relate to?