Colourful traditions

Colour plays a big role in our lives, think about how often for example we describe our mood based on colours. Instead of being green with envy when your neighbour always seems to pick the right colour to wrap his gifts, I will give you a golden opportunity to learn a little more about it yourself. No need to see red with anger this Christmas over wrongly packed gifts.

Worldwide colours have meaning, and those meaning differ dramatically around the world. Those meanings are mostly based on cultures, countries, religions and traditions. Therefore, the interpretation of the meaning of colours vary widely. To avoid any mistakes when you are wrapping your carefully selected holiday presents this article will give you a short introduction to the use of colours.

Let’s just start with the colour red, the colour that we use so much during the holiday season. In South Africa however, this colour represents mourning, in India it stands for pureness, and in the UK is represents prostitution. In the West in general it stands for excitement, energy, passion and indeed also for Christmas.

What about green, another holiday favourite. In the USA, green represents money, in China it represents deception and in the Netherlands is represents sustainability. On average in Western cultures green stands for luck, freshness and wealth. In the West you are pretty safe with green, in the rest of the world a little less. In China for example, besides deception it also represents adultery, and in Indonesia the colour is traditionally forbidden.

How about orange? The Dutch national colour. For Dutchies, the colour represents meeting expectations, reaching goals, warmth, and enthusiasm. In Ireland on the other hand orange is considered a religious colour, and in Colombia it’s the colour of sexuality. In the far East it represents good health and humility, that’s one of the reasons Buddhist monks for example often wear orange coloured robes.

The colour purple has a lot of similarities worldwide, it’s considered a divine colour and it represents mourning and atonement. It’s also a colour of royalty, wealth and nobility. The Purple Heart is the oldest military award given to US military members.

Yellow is a colour of mourning in Mexico, but in Japan it represents courage and strength. In the Netherlands yellow is a joyful colour, that represents happiness and social energy, and in Germany it’s associated with envy.

The safest colour to go with worldwide is blue, because it has many positive associations. In Europe and North America, it’s a colour of authority, sincerity, and being relaxed. In China is the colour of immortality. In some Middles Eastern countries, it represents mourning, but in general it’s considered a soothing colour. Although it can also relate to depression as in “having the blues”.

Like I said at the beginning, the meaning of colours differs dramatically worldwide, and this article just reveals a snippet of all of these differences, hopefully just enough though to realise not to give your Chinese neighbour a green winter hat, or your German colleague a yellow box of chocolates. Enjoy the holiday season!