Symbols and Colors used in the United Methodist Church
Throughout the Christian Church's history certain symbols and colors have become associated with the major and minor festivals, special occasions, and seasons of the church year. In the western world colors also have traditional associations with themes such as:
blue-- hope, love, truth, faithfulness, heaven
white-- purity, holiness, innocence, faith, light
purple-- royalty, repentance, remorse
black -- sin, death, evil
scarlet-- royalty, loyalty
red -- fire, love
green-- growth, victory, hope
gold-- God's abundance, marriage
Colors and Seasons:
Advent-- purple or blue
Epiphany-- white (second through eighth Sunday's--green)
New Year's Eve/Day --white
Transfiguration of our Lord -- white
Ash Wednesday-- purple or black
Palm Sunday-- scarlet or purple
Maundy Thursday-- scarlet or white
Good Friday-- black
Easter--white (Easter Day-- white or gold)
Season after Pentecost-- green
Reformation Day-- red
All Saints' Day-- white
Thanksgiving Day-- white
Advent- Is the first season in the Christian year, it always includes four Sundays. It starts Sunday November 27th or the first Sunday after November 27th to sunset December 24th. The Advent wreath with four purple candles is lighted on successive Sundays.Advent wreath- The Advent wreath was first used by Protestants in Germany in the Lutheran church. Its circle represents God's love; the evergreens symbolize the hope of eternal life; the four purple or blue candles represent the four weeks of Advent; the white Christ candle, in the center of the wreath, is lighted on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. One candle is lighted each Sunday until all the candles are lighted. As the fresh candle is lighted, the ones from the previous weeks are relighted. The symbolism of the candles varies among Protestant traditions, but the purpose is the same-- to prepare our hearts and minds for the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Christmas- This season from sunset December 24th through January 6th is represented by white or gold. A creche or manger scene may be used thoughout the season, with the Wise Men added when Epiphany is celebrated. Often the Wise Men represent the races of humanity and skin colors are used. Three crowns symbolize the Wise Men, their gifts of gold, frankincense (which may be burned as incense), and myrrh can be used.
Season after Epiphany- from January 7th through the day before Lent. First Sunday after Epiphany--Baptism of the Lord--white. Second through next to last Sunday after Epiphany*--green.
*The number of Sundays after Christmas, Epiphany, and Pentecost varies from year to year, but the last Sundays after Epiphany and Pentecost are always Tranfiguration of the Lord and Christ the King respectively. ~ Source: United Methodist Altars, Hoyt L. Hickman
Last Sunday after Epiphany, or the Transfiguration-- white.
Lent- from the seventh Wednesday before Easter to sunset Easter Eve. Purple, grey, dark earth colors. Rough coarse textures such as burlap. From Palm Sunday through Holy Week a deep hue of red may be used to symbolize the blood of Christ. At the beginning of the Palm Sunday service people may process with palm fronds. All crosses may be veiled during Lent, especially during Holy Week, and definitely on Good Friday. On Maundy Thursday any of the dark colors or white may be used. At the end of the service all visuals may be stripped from the sanctuary and not replaced until after the first service of Easter. Good Friday and Holy Saturday, no color.
Easter- from sunset Easter Eve through the Day of Pentecost, White or gold- The lighting of the Paschal Candle is done the first service of Easter and for the remainder of the Easter Season the candle may be used. (this large candle, at least 2" in diameter and 2' tall, symbolizes Christ's appearances following his resurrection). Other symbols for this season are flowers, butterflies, peacocks, and the phoenix. The day of Pentecost an appropriate color is flame red to signify the Holy Spirit, and the descending dove, and rainbow.
Season after Pentecost- from the day after Pentecost through the day before Advent. The first Sunday after Pentecost is known as Trinity Sunday and its color is white. All Saints' Day November 1, or first Sunday in November is also white, as is the last Sunday of Pentecost. The second Sunday through the next to last Sunday is green. Combinations of colors and colors other than the basic four are considered appropriate during this season. Spring, summer and autumn can be used.History of the United Methodist Cross & Flame SymbolMajority of information was found in "United Methodist Altars, A guide for Congregations" by Hoyt L. Hickman Available from Amazon and from Barnes and Nobles
Latin Cross, the one used by the
Romans to put Jesus to death and the most commonly used form in chancels.
Greek Cross, with four arms of
Budded Cross, with trefoil ends
symbolic of life and of the Trinity. IHS, the first three letters of the name "Jesus" in Greek, used as a monogram to signify Jesus.
Celtic Cross, with a circle that
Maltese Cross, the spreading arms and
eight points symbolize human regeneration and the eight beatitudes.
Trefoil, another symbol of the Trinity.
Fleur-de-lis, again the Trinity
Three Intertwined Circles, These indicate the doctrine of the equality, unity, and co-eternal nature of the three persons of the Trinity
Triquetra, Early symbol of the Holy Trinity. The three equal arcs express eternity in their continuous form, indivisibility in their
interweaving,and their center is a triangle.
Three Fish in a Circle, The fish is the ancient symbol for our Lord, three fish in a circle signify that man's salvation comes from the Triune God.
Triangle, a symbol of the Trinity which represents the union of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
Alpha and Omega, the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, used to represent our Lord.
"I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the begining and the end" (Rev. 22:13).
Starting on Easter Sunday, we have lit the tall Paschal candle next to the baptismal font during our worship. Since ancient times, Christians have lit a large candle to symbolize the risen Lord who stands among us at Easter. It also symbolizes the pillar of fire that led Israel by night through the wilderness. Its name comes from the Hebrew Pesach, meaning “deliverance” or Passover; in Spanish, the word for Easter is Pasqua. So we understand the connection between the Exodus journey and the Resurrection.
We will light the Paschal candle during the Great Fifty Days between Easter and Pentecost. We will also light it when persons are baptized, and at funerals. It reminds us of the connection of Christ to the baptized person who has died, and as a witness to the presence of Jesus Christ, the resurrection and the life.
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