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The Meaning of Church Colors

Dennis Bratcher

Royal Blue

Royal Blue is the color of royalty to welcome the coming of a King.  It can also symbolize the night sky in which the star appeared to announce the birth of Jesus. While purple has traditionally been the liturgical color for Advent, Royal Blue is increasingly used for Advent, especially in Protestant churches, to distinguish it from Lent. Some traditions still use Purple or Blue Violet for Advent

Bright Blue

Bright Blue symbolizes the sky or heaven, where heralds proclaimed Jesus' birth. In Roman Catholic tradition, it symbolizes Mary, who is known as "the Queen of Heaven." It can also symbolize the waters of Genesis 1, the beginning of a new creation.  It is increasingly used for Advent in Protestant churches to distinguish this season from Lent.

Blue Violet

Blue Violet is the color of royalty to welcome the coming of a King.  It also evokes pain and suffering. It is sometimes used as the traditional purple for Advent to symbolize both the impending birth of Jesus yet also foreshadowing his death.

Pink

Pink symbolizes joy and happiness. In various churches it is used either for the Third or Fourth Sunday of Advent, the Sunday of Joy at the impending birth of Jesus.

Rose

Rose also is used to symbolize joy and happiness, and is an alternate color for the Third or Fourth Sunday of Advent.

White

White symbolizes purity, holiness, and virtue, as well as respect and reverence. White is used for all high Holy Days and festival days of the Church Year, especially the seasons of Christmas and Easter, as well as for baptism, marriage, dedications, and in some traditions for the ordination of ministers. It is also used for funerals as a symbol of the resurrection.

Silver

Because of its brightness, metallic silver is sometimes used as an alternate color for white.

Gold

Gold symbolizes what is precious and valuable, and so symbolizes majesty, joy, and celebration. Because of its brightness metallic gold also symbolizes the presence of God. It is most often used with white for high Holy Days and festival days of the Church Year, especially the seasons of Christmas and Easter. It is also sometimes used as a secondary color for other seasons.

Yellow

Yellow symbolizes light which in turn is a symbol of the presence of God. It is also symbolic of renewal and hope, especially in the resurrection of Jesus. It is often used as an alternate color for gold when white is used as a sanctuary color. It is sometimes used with white for Easter.

Green

Green symbolizes the renewal of vegetation and generally of living things and the promise of new life. It is used for the Season of Epiphany between Transfiguration Sunday and the beginning of Lent, and for Ordinary Time between Trinity Sunday (first Sunday after Pentecost) and the beginning of Advent.

Light Green

Light Green is sometimes used as an alternate color for Green during Ordinary Time.  Some churches use Light Green before Lent (Season of Epiphany) and Green after Pentecost.

Purple

Purple can symbolize pain, suffering, and therefore mourning and penitence.  It is the liturgical color for the Season of Lent.  It is also the color of royalty, so traditionally has also been used for Advent and is still used in Catholic churches, although Blue Violet is also used. However, Blue is replacing purple for Advent in many Protestant churches.

Red Violet

Red Violet or Violet is also a symbol for pain and suffering, and is used as an alternate color for the Season of Lent.

Gray

Gray is the color of ashes, and therefore a biblical symbol of mourning and repentance. It can be used on Ash Wednesday, during Lent, or on special days of fasting and prayer.

Black

Black represents death and mourning. It is used only on Good Friday and Holy Saturday before the Easter Vigil, with no other decorations or colors. Sometimes black is used to cover other sanctuary symbols or to drape the sanctuary cross and altar on Good Friday.

Red

Red is the color of fire and so symbolizes the presence of God. It is the liturgical color for Pentecost.  It is considered the color of the Church, since red can also symbolize the blood of martyrs. It is sometimes used for Maundy Thursday and during Eastertide. In Roman Catholic tradition it is used for Palm Sunday in anticipation of the death of Jesus. In some traditions it is used to commemorate special days for martyrs or saints, or for the ordination of priests/ministers.

Olive

Olive is sometimes used as a Church color during Ordinary Time.

Aqua

Aqua is sometimes used as a Church color during Ordinary Time.

-Dennis Bratcher, Copyright © 2012, Dennis Bratcher - All Rights Reserved
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