Time is an abstract concept that can be difficult to visualize. However, associating colors with different times of day or year can help give time more concrete meaning. The colors we relate to time often stem from nature, like the warm colors of a sunrise or the cool tones of night. Cultural associations also influence the colors we link with time, like the brightness of white for day or black for night in some traditions. Understanding these color connections can enrich how we experience the passage of time.
We often associate the morning hours with bright, warm colors like yellow, orange, and gold. This relates to the natural color of the sunrise as the sun peers over the horizon. The soft golden sunlight gradually transitions to paler yellow and eventually crisp white as the morning progresses toward midday. Lighter cool tones like pink and purple may also represent morning, as these colors often tint the sky just before sunrise.
In Chinese culture, red is strongly connected with the morning and new beginnings. Red paper is used for wedding invitations symbolizing the dawn of a new future for the couple. The color red also links to China’s history as a red flag represented the rising sun and the dawn of a new Communist nation.
Bright warm colors like yellow and orange evoke energy and vitality that suit the spirit of the morning. These positive hues relate to starting fresh and feeling motivated at the start of a new day. Cooler tones like purple and pink have calmer associations with tranquility and relaxation that relate to the sleepy start of a new morning. Overall, lively yet soft colors reflect both the natural beauty of sunrise and the mix of energy and calmness we feel in the morning.
The afternoon hours are often associated with strong, vibrant colors like bright blue, green, and yellow. These hues relate to the natural colors we see in the midday sun. A bright blue sky is typically overhead at noontime. Vibrant green tones come from lush vegetation thriving under the strong sunshine. Yellow relates to the sun high in the sky sending down its warmest rays.
In parts of Latin America like Mexico, bright yellow and pink colors connect with the afternoon and the festiveness of midday. The yellow relates to the sun itself, while the pink connects to the traditional drinks like lemonade sold by street vendors at midday. The brightness and vibrancy of these colors evoke both energy and cheerfulness associated with the most active part of the day.
White is also commonly associated with afternoons in many cultures. The pale brightness relates to the harsh, unfiltered light at midday before the sun begins its descent. Overall, clear, vivid colors like blue, green, yellow, and white best represent the illuminated energy and liveliness of the afternoon hours.
Cooler, more subdued colors like lavender, blue, and gray often represent the evening hours. As the sun sets, the bright colors of the afternoon transition to softer, darker tones. Pale purples and blues reflect how the darkening sky tints the light at dusk. Cool greens can also relate to evening as trees and plants absorb the last of the day’s sunshine. Gray tones evoke the oncoming darkness and shadows of twilight.
In ancient Egypt, people associated the evening with a goddess depicted in sky blue. Her blue skin represented both sky and water, connecting her to the moon and the night time. Egyptians also viewed blue and green as mystical evening colors related to the afterlife journey taken after dark. So these cooler tones came to symbolize both evening itself and the spiritual beliefs linked with nighttime.
While lively bright colors represent midday, cooler muted evening tones relate to winding down and relaxation. The transition from bright vibrancy to subdued hues mirrors nature’s progression from day to night. Just as the sky’s color shifts from blue to purple to deeper blues and gray, our own energy mellows as evening’s restful qualities emerge.
Black, deep blue, and gray are the prime colors we associate with nighttime. As sunlight disappears, blackness envelops the sky purely devoid of color. The depth of unlit darkness relates black strongly with night in many cultures. Cool midnight blues also link to night skies unbroken by light. Silvery grays can represent the moon and stars illuminating the night with their faint monochrome glow.
In Chinese culture, black carries positive nighttime meanings of tranquility and personal insight. Black symbolizes the inward focus that nighttime quietness makes possible. Ancient Chinese also associated black with the life-giving moisture of dew that falls during the night. So black took on significant meanings of reflection and renewal alongside its literal connection to darkened nights.
White is also tied to night in some cultures, relating to moonlight and starlight. While black represents unlit darkness, white connects to nights filled with the pale glow of the moon and stars. So white can mean optimism and faith even in the depth of night. Overall, the muted depths of black and blue beautifully reflect night’s inherent stillness and mystery.
The transitional hours around dawn and early morning are often represented by pale, soft colors like lavender, baby blue, light yellow, and pink. These pastel versions of brighter tones relate to the sun’s muted first light. Lavender and pink capture the soft rays that break over the horizon before true sunrise. Light blues and yellows reflect the pale morning sky and the weak golden rays that filter through with the very first sunshine. Silver and gold shimmers also connect with the luminous quality of the atmosphere at daybreak.
In many mythologies, goddesses of the dawn were depicted in shimmering pale golds and pinks to represent their reign over the brief transitional glow of early morning. The ancient Greek goddess Eos wore a golden shawl to symbolize the radiance she brought to the sky at dawn. So soft precious metals and pastel shades beautifully reflect the magical, uplifting glow of daybreak.
Sunset hours are represented by a wide spectrum of warm, bright hues from pinks and oranges to bold reds and yellows. These colors directly mirror the changing tones of the evening sky. Soft pinks depict the clouds at sunset kissed by the fading light. Darkening oranges and yellows reflect the sun dipping closer to the horizon. Fiery reds symbolize the intense bursts of color as the sun makes its final descent at dusk. Even vivid purples relate to more dramatic auroras produced at sunset time.
In many cultures, red is strongly associated with the energy and passion of the setting sun. Ancient Egyptians linked red to the goddess Isis, who embodied the cycle of the sun from sunrise to sunset. Red sun symbols related to her ability to resurrect the life-giving sun each dawn. Red suns also represented Ra, the Egyptian sun god who aged and renewed daily with the rising and setting sun. So red reflects the divine transformative power cultures associate with the vivid sunset hour.
Different Times of Year
Color associations also connect with the changing seasons throughout the year. Each season has signature color palettes that reflect common experiences and cultural connections.
Springtime is full of bright, lively colors like light green, pink, yellow, and pale blue. These colors reflect the natural landscape in spring. Yellow and pink relate to the blooming flowers and flowering trees bursting with color after winter. Light greens depict the new leaves and shoots sprouting on the trees and in the grass. Robins’ egg blue represents the awakening sky and the clearness of spring’s first warm breezes.
Pastels and jewel tones reflect spring’s spirit of renewal and rebirth. Soft tones like lavender and peach symbolize the delicate first blossoms after winter’s barrenness. Vivid gem-like colors relate to the intense life energy that surges back in nature after spring’s thaw. Overall, an array of light vibrant hues perfectly capture the optimism and liveliness inherent to spring.
Summer’s colors are hot, energetic hues like bright green, yellow, orange, red, and aqua. These colors all connect to nature’s richness during summer. Green represents the lush full foliage at summer’s peak. Yellow and orange reflect the bright warm sunshine that bathes summer days. Aqua blue and turquoise depict tropical oceans and lakes. Red relates to heat, passion, and the vivid colors of summer fruits and flowers.
Tie-dye rainbow colors also link strongly to summer due to their association with hippie culture and music festivals. Similarly, watercolor washes in blues, pinks, and purples relate to summer’s laidback, creative spirit. Overall, summery colors have an energizing yet relaxing effect, mirroring the balance of activity and leisure during the warmest season.
Warm earthy tones represent autumn, including red, orange, yellow, brown, and terra-cotta. These colors directly connect to the changing fall foliage. Red, orange, and yellow reflect the vivid leaves transforming before dropping from the trees. Rich brown and brick hues depict pine needles and bark. Terra-cotta relates to the earthy grounds revealed when trees shed their leaves.
Purple also strongly links to autumn and Halloween. During harvest times, purple evoked ripeness and fruition. Ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans all used the color to represent harvest and the transition to winter. So purple represents autumn’s spirit of fruition as the year’s final crops are gathered.
Cool, muted winter colors include steel gray, pale blue, icy purple, and frosty white. Gray and pale blue relate to winter skies and frigid temperatures. Icy blues and purples reflect the frozen landscape during winter months. Clean whites represent snowfall blanketing the ground. Blacks and charcoal grays also connect with the bareness of winter’s dormancy.
Evergreen tones like deep green, pine, and emerald also represent winter. The persistence of green reflects the steadfastness of evergreen trees staying verdant despite winter’s freezing onslaught. Wintry colors remind us of the serenity found in nature’s stillness during the coldest, darkest season.
Color deeply impacts how we experience the different times of day and seasons. Nature’s cycles from sunrise to sunset, spring to winter provide the palette that cultures across time associate with the progression of time. Warm, bright hues bring to mind activity, energy, and growth. By contrast, cool, muted tones evoke calmness, stillness, and completion. Color’s ability to reflect light itself makes it a perfect symbolic mirror for the patterns of time and our relationships to them.
When we understand these cultural color associations, we can use them to more purposefully shape our daily lives. Waking to soft pinks and lavenders tunes us into the tranquil opportunity a new day brings. Surrounding ourselves with summery rainbow colors during a project can boost motivation. Darkening our space with winter tones as evening sets promotes peaceful productivity. Honoring time this way through color can strengthen our natural human connection to the rhythms of the natural world.