Red and green are the colours of Christmas. But why have the colours become so synonymous with this time of year? I wondered if there was any link with blood. The main reason I tried to find a link was so I could show off our Lego Christmas Village in a post. It certainly has a red and green theme.
We have been collecting a new house for the Christmas village every year for the last 10 years. We now have a Fire station, railway station, train, Toy shop and even a Gingerbread House.
So is there a link to blood? I found a couple.
The red-green theme of Christmas appears to come from a pagan ritual from many centuries ago. The Druids regarded holly as a symbol of fertility and eternal life and thought it had magical powers. Holly remained green and strong with bright red berries during the winter when all other plants wilted. Hanging holly in your home was believed to bring good luck. The Romans and Celts also believed that holly had special powers and used it to protect their homes and believed it would bring a good harvest.
Much later Christianity adopted Holly as a Christmas symbol, not approved by all churches as it was seen as pagan. However, holly has come to represent the crown of thorns and the red berries are the drops of Christ’s blood.
Most of my lego houses have holly wreaths on them somewhere
Elves and fairies
The second link to blood is more sinister. We tend to think of elves at Christmas time as Santa’s helpers beavering away in the Northpole all year making toys, but the origin of elves and fairies is more macabre.
Elves and fairies are closely related in folklore. Elves seem to have come from early Norse mythology, but over time stories about elves and fairies were combined and by 1800, fairies and elves were widely considered to be simply different names for the same magical creatures.
Some legends included stories about blood-sucking fairies who were far from the friendly image of today. A legend from the Scottish highlands warned that you must bring water into your house at night so the fairies don’t quench their thirst with your blood. Very old fairies, like vampires, were said to wrinkle and dry up without fresh blood.
The Baobhan Sith are vampiric Scottish fairies. These beautiful green banshees have hooves instead of feet, they dance with and exhaust their male victims then tear them to pieces. Dearg-Due are Irish vampiric fairies or “Red Blood Suckers”.
This image of blood-sucking fairies and elves is far removed from the cute little guys living in Santa’s house in my village.
Santa’s red suit
Of course, the most obvious link to the colour red is Santa himself. Nothing to do with blood, more linked to Coca Cola. Many believe that the Coca Cola company was the first to portray Santa as a rotund man with a red coat, but the origin of the fat jolly santa comes from a picture by Thomas Nast drawn in 1866. This has a link to my blog as the picture first appeared in the paper, Harper’s Weekly.
Happy Christmas everyone.