Why is red the colour of Christmas?

Red is one of the most eye grabbing colours, because deep down we associate it with danger (warning signs), love (hearts), passion (roses), anger (red face), energy (Red Bull) and excitement (Ferrari).

It is one of the most popular colours for logos (Argos, Nike, Illy, Brand Republic) and often used in advertising to draw the eye – how great would those Economist ads look if they’d used pink or blue?

In food marketing, red is believed to increase appetite, so is commonly used by fast food brands (KFC, McDonald’s, Burger King, Pizza Hut).

In sports it’s associated with Manchester United and Arsenal. Research has shown that if a goalkeeper wears red, there’s less chance of the other team scoring a goal.

In politics it’s the colour of socialism and communism.

In psychology it’s associated with energy and with anger, hence the term “seeing red”. Yellow is the most energetic, blue passive and green for moderation (why it’s used for displays). But pink is used to reduce anger and has been used in prisons in America, some believe it’s all to do with frequencies.

In music it’s the name of an American rock band from Nashville and albums by King Crimson and Taylor Swift (who couldn’t be further apart musically). Other bands that use red include the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Red Snapper, Bill Nelson’s Red Noise and Simply Red.

In fairy tales there’s Little Red Riding Hood (by the Brothers Grimm) and the evil red apple given to Snow White by the wicked Queen (by Hans Christian Andersen).

In TV, Red John is the name a serial killer in the hit CBS series the Mentalist, played by Simon Baker. Baker’s character, Patrick Jane, is constantly trying to hunt down the killer of his family but never catches him. After he has killed, Red John paints a smiley face on the wall in blood. Red Dwarf is a hit British comedy series that spoofs science fiction programmes like Star Trek and features actors Craig Charles and Chris Barrie.

In charity the Project Red Initiative, launched by U2’s Bono, was a global fund to fight AIDS. One of many brands that supported it was American Express, others included Nike, Starbucks, GAP and Apple. The Amex Red card managed to attract an audience (the Chelsea set) they had previously failed to recruit any other way.

In nature it is a colour that is the most popular for flowers, from roses to geraniums as it attracts insects. It is also a warning colour for toadstools (poison) or ladybirds (to scare off predators).   The white spots of the ‘fly agaric’ contains aspirin and was used by warriors in ancient times to remove pain. However, the plant also contains an hallucinogenic, so if you are looking to improve your imagination…

In fashion, the red & white ‘polka dot’ design, named after the dance, goes back to 1854 but is popular in fashion and pops up at regular intervals during the 50s and 60’s. During the 80’s and 90’s Venezuelan fashion designer Carolina Herrera made it her signature element in her designs, but recently the pop band The Pipettes created a revival.   Japanese artist, Yayoi Kusama also used it as a signature in her work – recently she covered trees along the South Band with polka dot fabric.

Red is also the colour of Christmas and Santa Claus. Many believe that the red of Santa’s outfit comes from Coca-Cola advertising during the 1930’s that used the character dressed in red. (In history he’d often been shown in both red and green.)  The images used in Coke’s adverts were created by Haddon Hubbard “Sunny” Sundblom, who is credited with the modern day image of Father Christmas being grandfather like, fat and friendly. Ironic when you think how much sugar there is a bottle of Coke!



    Strange that in the steam driven days of TV production the colour red was virtually banned ass it screwed up the chromakey, now the only could on the breakfast sofas is red or do they just swap the furniture around as they do presenters ….we should be told…