The Meanings of Colors From Country to Country

Most people don’t realize that colors don’t mean the same in every country. If you are European or American, you will have more ideas about colors in common. In America and in European countries, if someone dies, we wear black. If a young woman gets married, she wears white to signify purity. If we wrap a Christmas package, even though we use other colors too, the primary colors of Christmas are red, green, and white. Santa has a red suit. The Christmas tree is green, and snow is white. However, we never stop to think that everyone in the world is not European and also don’t have a European history to their country like America.

Packages with red bows mean happiness in Japan. They don’t have to be just for Christmas.//Photo by Giftpundits.com on Pexels.com

If you are in Japan, red is the color of happiness. I was instructed when I lived in Japan to always put red bows on my packages to signify happiness. In Japan, they wear black when they are in mourning like we do in the west. If a young girl gets married in Japan, red and white are the colors. It seems they got those traditions from other countries. In Japan, when a young woman gets married, she is supposed to wear a red kimono for the ceremony at the Shinto Shrine, and then change into a white wedding dress like from the west for the reception. Men wear a black suit with big wide pants for the wedding ceremony. For the bride, she is supposed to change again at the end of the reception too. She is supposed to keep changing her clothes to show she looks pretty in whatever she puts on. The older women in Japan wear darker kimonos like dark blue, black, or purple, and the younger women wear brighter or lighter kimonos like peach colored, red, orange, etc. For a formal kimono, the men wear the suit with the big wide black pants. However, at home, they will wear a dark blue and white yukata (summer kimono). The older women may also wear the dark blue and white yukatas, but the younger ones will wear yukatas with pink, peach, orange, etc. flowers on them.

The Korean and Japanese brides have borrowed the idea of the white dress from the west, but they also change their clothes and wear other clothes during the ceremony and reception that are not white, but usually red.//Photo by Trung Nguyen on Pexels.com

As for Korea, the bride may also wear a white wedding dress like those in the west for the ceremony in the wedding hall where she walks down the aisle in a way similar to what brides do in the west. However, after the wedding ceremony, the bride and groom put on traditional Korean clothing and sit at a small table to have their pictures taken. The bride will wear red, again, like in Japan. The man may wear purple or some similar dark color. The husband at this point, will wear a nobleman’s hat. It is like a black skull cap with wings on the back. The women may be given the hanbok and headdress of a princess. The husband tries to pick the wife up on his back and carry him around the table among other customs, and then, the wife puts on a simpler hanbok with a red skirt and a yellow jacket, and the husband puts on a man’s hanbok that may be blue or some similar color. It is like a suit, and the pants are puffy. They then go to the reception. The older women wear darker hanboks like purple or blue at the wedding. If you go to a funeral in Korea, the traditional color is white. The men in Korea now a days, wear lots of dark suits like men in the west. They have a baby’s first birthday party basically for the parents, and the parent’s friends come, and sometimes at those, the father, the mother, and the baby all wear matching hanboks. The women’s hanbok is like a long dress. The men’s is like a suit with puffy pants. The color of royalty in Korea is red and yellow or gold unlike in America and Europe, where we think of purple.

If your thumb is green in America, it means you are a good gardener. Photo by Alena Koval on Pexels.com

From what I understand, all this red comes from China. In China, red is the color of the bride. In America, if a bride wore red, we might think “scarlet woman!” That means that she isn’t a very nice woman. It is strange how colors mean something different from country to country. I have also heard that in Bangladesh, the mourning clothes are white. In America and Europe, white means purity. We also have a thing in our heads that black means something bad. However, in recent times, black has had a better rap. We think people dressed in black look elegant. In the American culture, if we are green, we are envious. If we are blue, we are sad. If we are yellow, we are a coward. If you have a green thumb, you are a good gardener. If something is “red hot,” it means that either you need to let go of it before you get burned or that everyone wants it. In America, you dress baby boys in baby blue and baby girls in delicate pink, but these ideas are only in the west. In America, we say that you have to be really tough and be a real man to wear pink because of what people think of pink as being a very feminine color. These ideas just don’t exist in Korea. Colors are not used the same there. To talk about colors makes me think that what we think of animals from culture to culture is different too, so perhaps next time, I will talk about what people think about animals.

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