For at least one group of people, Christmas can't be over soon enough. No, this group isn't comprised of Scrooges or Grinches but advocates for the colors green and red who say it's time society take back these two colors from Christmas and restore them to their rightful place as the non-denominational colors they were meant to be.
"Keep Christ in Christmas but take out the colors green and red," says Nestor Snudge, president of Rebels for Color Neutrality, a three-year-old nonprofit organization whose sole mission is to get green and red removed as the official colors of Christmas so that all people, no matter what their religious persuasion, can feel a sense of equal ownership of them.
"Christians have had their way with these colors for too long," says Snudge. "I don't blame Christians for this, of course. I'm Christian myself. But I just feel Christmas has unfairly taken these colors hostage and that's simply not fair to the bulk of humanity. Because let's not ignore that most people in the world are not Christian and do not celebrate Christmas."
More importantly, says Rebecca Blide, a color historian at the University of Connecticut, the colors have nothing to do with the birth of Christ. "Jesus was born in a manger in Bethlehem. If you look on a map, you see that that village is right in the middle of a very dry, very arid region. If Christmas should have any official color, it should be brown or tan. Red and green are simply too colorful, too fun to truly represent the spirit of Jesus' birth."
Blide says the roots of the combination of red and green as a Christmas motif derives from Christians' adoption of rituals from European paganism, particularly the early Germanic variety. In fact, much of what we think of as traditional Christmas style---the evergreen tree decorated with colorful ornaments, gingerbread cookies, even Santa Claus and his workshop at the North Pole---derive from Germanic paganism.
"Early Christians were resourceful," says Blide. "In part to help get their religion accepted in the early days, they quickly incorporated elements of pagan culture into their festivities. By incorporating elements of the nature-worshipping culture of the Europeans, this exotic religion, whose historic roots were in the Middle East , was more easily embraced. For Christians, the risk was this strange religion, with its very different set of cultural references, would be rejected. So, I think you can build a case that early Christians very deliberately wrapped their religion around ritualistic motifs that Europeans would find comforting."
To Snudge, the early Christians succeeded all too well, and now these two colors so characteristic of Northern Europe---the green of the forests and the red of the colorful clothing that characterizes the pagan Gods, like Wodanaz, Punraz, and Nerpuz---have become synonymous with Christmas, and that's just wrong.
"I once wore a green and red shirt in summer and no fewer than three people said something to the effect, 'What, you think it's Christmas?' That's when I knew I had to do something about this. When two colors are so closely associated with a single object like that, you know matters have been taken too far. If I want to wear the colors green and red in the summer, I should be able to do so without inviting insipid remarks like that."
Brad Feener, an original member of Rebels for Color Neutrality, said he joined the group because of a situation that affected him professionally. "I'm a designer and years ago, when the XFL was launched---you might not remember that, but it was a short-lived professional football league set up to compete with the NFL---I was asked to help design a uniform for the San Francisco Demons. I love the colors red and green and designed the uniforms around that color scheme and I was practically laughed out of the meeting at which I made my presentation. I was humiliated. But, more than that, I was mad. So when Rebels for Color Neutrality was launched, I immediately signed up."
The group has 140 members, but Snudge says he's optimistic the cause will grow. "Right now people are looking for comfort. The economy has been bad, our politics are getting very ugly. People are less confident than they've been in the past, so they're quite naturally seeking out comforting things, and the red and green of Christmas is a comforting thing. It reminds people of their childhood, when they had few cares. But once things improve, I think our message will start to resonate. And then watch out: we'll take back these two colors and free people to do anything they want with them whenever they want."
And once that happens, says Snudge, other colors will be in their crosshairs. "We'll take back blue and white from Hanukkah, red, white and blue from the United States and France, and orange from Hooters. Soon, colors everywhere will breathe the air of freedom."