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Why is Easter purple?

Easter is one of the most important Christian holidays that celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is observed in spring, typically somewhere between late March and late April. Easter is filled with time-honored traditions, from egg decorating and Easter egg hunts to special church services and family gatherings. One of the most recognizable symbols of Easter is the color purple.

The Significance of the Color Purple

Purple is strongly associated with Easter for a few key reasons:

  • Purple symbolizes royalty – Purple dye was historically very expensive to produce so purple fabrics were reserved for kings, queens, and other nobles. The color purple came to represent royalty, nobility, and luxury. Jesus was seen as the King of Kings so purple is an appropriate color for the holiday that celebrates his resurrection.
  • Purple represents wealth and status – In ancient times, purple dye was so costly to produce that only the very rich could afford purple clothes and fabrics. Wearing purple signified one’s wealth, status, and importance. Purple is associated with Easter to represent the significance and divinity of Christ.
  • Purple is the color of Lent – Lent is the 40-day period leading up to Easter Sunday. During Lent, altar clothes and priestly vestments in churches are purple. As Easter approaches, the purple color shifts to white and gold.
  • Purple can symbolize pain, suffering, and mourning – As Easter approaches, the purple color is symbolic of the sorrow of Christ’s crucifixion and death. The purple color shifts to the joyous white at Easter to represent the resurrection.

So in summary, the color purple is associated with Jesus’s royal status, divine importance, the Lenten season leading up to Easter, and the mournful time before the resurrection. That is why Easter is tied to the regal, meaningful color purple.

The Origins of the Easter Purple Tradition

The use of purple during the Easter season goes back many centuries. Here is a look at the origins of this tradition:

  • Ancient dye production – Purple dyes were produced from a species of shellfish called murex as early as 1600 BC. The complex and costly process involved extracting a purple-colored mucus from the shellfish. As a result, purple fabric was extraordinarily expensive, restricted only to the very wealthy.
  • Royal purple use – During the Roman Empire, rulers wore purple clothing as a symbol of their imperial power, nobility, and high status. The emperors’ purple robes became closely associated with leadership and royalty.
  • Purple’s biblical significance – In the Bible, passages describe purple fabrics being used in the tabernacle and temple. Purple is mentioned as a color worn by kings and the wealthy. Because purple dye was rare and valuable, it took on meaning as a sacred, significant color in biblical times.
  • Purple in Christianity – Early Christian leaders adopted the imperial color to demonstrate the importance of the church. Bishops and other high-ranking church officials wore purple robes. Purple became strongly associated with Christianity and the church’s authority.
  • Lenten purple – During the Middle Ages, church practice established Lent as a 40-day period of reflection and penitence leading up to Easter. Churches use purple altar coverings and other decor during Lent to symbolize somberness and sacrifice.
  • Royal robes on Palm Sunday – On Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter, churches commemorate Jesus’s triumphant return to Jerusalem when people laid down palms in his path. Jesus is celebrated as a king, so purple robes are used to honor his royal status.

This rich history shows how the color purple became linked with Christianity, royalty, power, and wealth. Over time, purple became an integral part of the Easter tradition as both a reflection of Jesus’s importance and the solemnity leading up to his resurrection.

When is Purple Used During Easter?

Purple and violet colors are widely used during the Easter season. Here are some of the key times when purple makes an appearance:

  • Ash Wednesday – Purple is used in churches on Ash Wednesday which marks the beginning of the Lenten season and fasting.
  • Lent – Churches use purple throughout the 40 days of Lent. Purple altar cloths and priest garments mark the solemnity of the season.
  • Holy Week – The last week before Easter is Holy Week. Purple remains dominant until Holy Thursday when decor shifts to red to symbolize Christ’s blood.
  • Good Friday – On Good Friday, purple and black are used in some churches to mark the day of Christ’s crucifixion.
  • Easter Vigil – This Mass takes place on Holy Saturday after sundown. Purple is sometimes used until a triumphant shift to white and gold to celebrate the resurrection.
  • Easter Day – White and gold become the colors of Easter Sunday to signify the joy of Christ’s rising from the dead. Purple is not used on this celebratory day.

So purple is especially prominent during Lent leading up to Easter. It disappears on Easter itself when white, gold, and other bright colors take center stage.

Purple in Easter Traditions and Celebrations

Purple plays an important role in many Easter traditions. Here are some of the ways it appears:

  • Easter church decor – Churches use purple banners, altar cloths, curtains, and wall hangings during Lent and Holy Week services.
  • Priest and minister robes – During Lent and Holy Week services, church leaders often wear purple vestments and robes to align with the solemn occasion.
  • Easter flowers – Purple and lavender flowers like hyacinths, tulips, crocuses, and lilacs are popular in Easter flower arrangements.
  • Easter wreaths – Easter wreaths often contain purple flowers and decorations to welcome the spring season and commemorate Lent.
  • Easter eggs – Purple dye is a common color used to dye Easter eggs along with other spring-inspired pastels.
  • Easter baskets – Purple plastic grass, bows, faux flowers, and other purple decorative elements are popular in Easter baskets.
  • Easter crafts – Many Easter craft ideas for kids incorporate the color purple like crafting purple crosses, painted egg wreaths, or purple pipe cleaner bunnies.
  • Easter candy and treats – Easter-themed candy and baked goods utilizing purple are popular like jelly beans, Peeps, M&Ms, cupcakes, cookies and more.

Incorporating the color purple into Easter traditions is an excellent way to teach children about the significance of the Lenten season leading up to Easter Sunday. The purple details add beauty and symbolism to these meaningful customs.

Purple in Fashion and Clothing

Along with decor, purple fashion is also very common around Easter:

  • Purple dresses – Women and girls often wear pretty purple sundresses or purple accents on Easter outfits to church services.
  • Purple ties and shirts – Men may opt for purple dress shirts or ties to incorporate the important Easter color.
  • Purple Easter bonnets – Historically, stylish women wore new purple bonnets on Easter Sunday as part of their celebration attire.
  • Purple coats and jackets – Purple light spring coats appear in stores around Easter for those looking to be festive.
  • Purple shoes and purses – To complement their Easter outfits, purple footwear and handbags are a popular choice.

Dressing in purple on Easter Sunday is fashionable way to mark the holiday. The color helps convey the significance of the day’s religious celebrations.

Why Purple Works Well for Easter

There are a few key reasons why purple is such an effective color for the Easter holiday:

  • Symbolism – Purple evokes the nobility of Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection. Its use during Lent reminds us of the somberness of Christ’s suffering.
  • Distinction – The bold purple hues set Easter apart from other major holidays and give it a signature look and feel.
  • Aesthetic appeal – Purple has a pleasing, attractive appearance that feels appropriate for a lively, joyous springtime celebration.
  • Creativity – Vibrant purples and pastel lavenders inspire creative Easter decorations, crafts, treats, clothing, and more.
  • Range – Easter purples span the spectrum from pale to deep hues, allowing for colorful variety in Easter items.

With its rich meaning, visual elegance, and versatility, purple is the perfect color to capture the Easter season.

Popular Purple Easter Color Palettes and Combinations

There are many stunning ways to use purple in Easter color schemes:

  • Pale purple, pink, and yellow – Pastel versions of purple, pink, and yellow have a delicate, springtime vibe.
  • Purple, light blue, and green – Combine light purple with sky blue and spring green for a soft pastel palette.
  • Eggplant purple and golden yellow – Deep purple eggplant tones paired with golden yellow are rich and meaningful.
  • Lavender, mint green, and coral – Blend light purple lavender with cheerful mint green and coral.
  • Purple, white, and metallics – For an elegant look, add white and metallic silver or gold to purple.

Purple can be paired with virtually any spring shade. Pastels, bright colors, metallics, and neutrals all complement purple beautifully during the Easter season.


Purple is a major part of Easter traditions because of its spiritual significance, regal associations, and aesthetic appeal. Tracing back to ancient times, purple dye was precious and valuable. Purple has long represented nobility, wealth, and power. In Christianity, it took on sacred meaning. During Lent and Holy Week, purple helps set a solemn, introspective mood in preparation for Easter celebrations. The color provides a visual reminder of the sacrifice and suffering leading up to Christ’s resurrection. Easter purple is a beautiful hue that inspires creativity and symbolism in holiday crafts, decorations, treats, clothing, and more. With its range from pale to deep tones, purple is a versatile, meaningful, and visually stunning color that captures the Easter season.