Photo: Starbucks

Photo: Starbucks

It was only early November when I began noticing people walking around with red Starbucks cups. I knew with the appearance of the vibrant poppy red design that the holiday season had already arrived. The design’s simplicity encourages the customer to project their own experience and memories of the holiday season, illustrating the powers of the colors red and green in evoking seasonal emotions.

Chirstmas-TreeWhile shopping at a Christmas decoration shop recently, my friend said something interesting: “This is really a great season, because it’s the time when you can see how perfectly complementary the colors green and red really are together”.

She was looking at red nutcrackers and glass balls hanging from a Christmas tree when she said this. And it is true…these two colors are normally defined as opposites (e.g. stop and go indicators on traffic signals). But during Christmas red and green exist harmoniously, together representing the holiday spirit. In fact, the color combination has a long and storied history:

“Throughout the years, green, the color that represents life, nature, peace, eternity and the hope of the future, has been important, especially to families trying to survive the harsh conditions that winter brings. While red is an important symbol of Christ’s birth and death, it also reminds the world to celebrate His selfless love and sacrifice. Holly berries, the red robes of church bishops, and red apples on the pine trees of medieval miracle plays were the forerunners of Rudolph’s red nose, and Santa’s familiar crimson suit.”


Moreover, as landscape architects it is common for us to play with the colors green and red in our design: maybe including red flowers or a red art installations, often against the backdrop of a green landscape. The power of red in landscape and architecture has long held importance in China. Associated with happiness, power, and wealth, the color red is visible in a majority of important buildings within the walls of the Forbidden City. Red can be also be seen in the Parc de la Villette. Designed by Bernard Tschumi, the third-largest park in Paris was designed in a space that exists in vacuum: “the red enameled steel folies that support different cultural and leisure activities are superimposed on a system of lines that emphasizes movement through the park.”

Parc de la Villette

Another example is the Qinhuangdao Red Ribbon Park. Spanning one thousand and five hundred feet, the brightly painted structure “combines seating, lighting, environmental interpretation, and orientation against the background of a natural landscape” and winds through the park landscape like a red holiday ribbon.

Photo: .

Photo: Turenscape.

Even subtracting the historical, cultural, and symbolic context behind the color combination of red and green, one can (and should) simply enjoy these two colors together in a celebration of harmony and good memories of the holidays.


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