Colour coding in the Church

I often wonder how baffling some church customs are to many! At times visitors can go into a church – particularly Anglican and wonder what on earth is going on. Some don’t help as the vicar never tells anyone what number the hymn is or what page you need to be on in the prayer book. No wonder people say, “you go to church to find God, but in the C of E you first have to find the page”!!

And then the vicar dresses in colours to co-ordinate with furnishings on the altar and elsewhere. So you are liable to find the vicar in green or white or red or purple, and everything matches!! That is even more so since they ordained women!

However, all this colour-coding has a purpose and is tied into the Churches’ or Liturgical Year Which is here shown as a pie chart;



To be different, the churches’ year starts on Advent Sunday  – the last Sunday in November and so we have

Advent  – 4 Sundays. A time for reflection and repentance , hence PURPLE

Christmas  from 24th Dec to Epiphany 6th January. A joyful time celebrating the birth of Jesus, hence pristine WHITE

Epiphany period  From 6th January to Ash Wednesday Nothing in particular so simply gently grow, thus GREEN

Lent  From Ash Wednesday to day beofre Palm Sunday; Another time for relection and repentance , hence PURPLE

Holy Week, i.e. Palm Sunday to the Wednesday. Things hot up from Palm sunday; thus RED

Maundy Thursday; To celebrate the Last Supper go to WHITE

Bad Good Friday, Most sombre of days , hence no colour whatosever

Easter for 40 days; Whoopee, the best of the best ; hence White

Pentecost; the outpouring of the fire of the Holy Spirit ; hence RED

Trinity Sunday and loads after that; Nothing exciting, steady growth again, hence GREEN

Saints’Days throughout the year, many of whom are Martyr; hence blood RED

The first half of the Church’s year from Advent to Pentecost takes congregations through the life of Jesus from his birth, baptism, Palm sunday, Good Friday and easter and finally Pentecost. So each year there is a focus on Jesus’life strengthening faith as that is the most important thing. The rest of the year – Trinity Season – is consolidating that.

I am sure that any competent liturgist could correct me somewhere! But then I could be liturgically challenged. However this is meant to be a simple description for simple liturgists like me!! Both the church’s year and liturgical colours are a useful teaching aid for teaching about the Gospel and not for liturgical specialists getting their cottas caught up in their girdles!

Pinching an idea from Blackburn Cathedral Janet Grey of St Thomas’ Garstang made the banner in the photo below. (It’s a high quality banner made from offcuts given to us by Ormesby’s in Scarisbrick rather that bits of scruffy scrap material) The banner gives a simple presentation of the meaning of the liturgical colours.



And now for close-ups of each


This is for Christmas and Easter. Happy times as we celebrate the birth and resurrection of Jesus


Red is to remember the fire of the Holy spirit at Pentcost and the blood of the martyrs


Realy, reflective times as purple is for Advent and Lent as we consider our faults before rejoicing at the birth and resurrection of Jesus














Other times are the innumerable Sundays after Trinity from May to November

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