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3 Oct 2014
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Santa Wore Yellow

Anne Enright meditates on the multitude of meanings surrounding the colour red...

Never mind a white Christmas, why don’t we have yellow Christmas? with yellow decorations, on yellow tablecloths, and yellow socks hung at the end of our beds, waiting for that big fat laughing yellow man to come down the chimney and fill them to the brim. Does he never get tired of red? Does he not yearn sometimes for powder blue, for grey or brown or black, for something a little quieter?

Apparently there something about red that makes you go ho ho ho, and all over the western world, the holly berries are gleaming red in the light of the fire as the little girls brush their dolly’s hair and the little bows on their velvet dresses are all as red as cosy is, as red as Christmas.

It used to be that the seasonal red came in small doses. The few berries on real holly, the robin redbreasts, whose blush came, or so they used to say, from the blood of the Saviour, shed on the cross. In the old days, in the very old days, there were battles between the robin and the wren, between the holly and the ivy, or was it the oak? Small pagan tussles that left a token sprinkling of blood on the snow.

At any other time of the year, you know, it would be the colour of sex, that woman in the red dress, with her red light - that scarlet woman. It is the colour of shamlessness and shame, the colour of flagrancy. It shows a kind of power, to be so obvious, so indifferent. Wouldn’t you say? A kind of power that, for example, yellow, just doesn’t have.

Because red is for danger and red is for stop. Unless it’s a dress, in which case red is for ‘keep trying buster’.

It’s just not a subtle colour, that’s all. It’s a loud, in your face, hot colour, to spice us up in the cold.

Call it what you like, red the colour of the theatre when is plush, the colour of our pulse, and, when the volcanoes blow, the colour of what is inside the earth too. Red is finally, the colour of love, roses and hearts, the colour on the inside of your eyelids when you kiss. And also, don’t mention it… the colour of ho ho ho.

What family traditions do you have?
Have you ever broken with them?
Why did you do it and what was the reaction?

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