Long before Halloween became a day of trick-or-treating, horror movies, and a good scare, it was a festival marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter. October 31st was not only the end of the year when spirits would return to the mortal realm, but when priests were able to forecast and predict the future with a particular focus on upcoming harvests. What's that to do with Halloween colors? Colors came into play as representatives of the season past and the coming winter. But those colors, black, red, and orange, evolved as Halloween expanded and grew around the globe to become the beloved tradition it is today.
Black and Orange Are Classic Halloween Colors
Orange was a symbolic Halloween color long before pumpkins and jack-o'-lanterns rose to prominence. But orange's roots are fairly obvious when you imagine the landscape of a crisp, sunny fall scene: all the trees turning hues of red, yellow, and most importantly, orange. However, the jack-o'-lanterns didn't come much later. The Irish carved turnips to celebrate the lore of Stingy Jack, a tradition they brought to the United States that evolved over time.
Much like the trees resemble a fiery landscape in the fall, orange is the token color of fire for warmth at the start of harvest and ripening the last of the plants. But orange is also a symbol of the end of harvest, as the final fruits and vegetables are ready for the table.
Black is a contrast to its bright partner: it resembles the darkness and cold of winter: the early sunsets, the dark days, and the chilling weather. The color black also resembles the former prominence of Samhain in the holiday, the significance of death, and the connection to spirits and those who have passed. Black also represents the darkness of night and things that are hidden among the shadows: the boogeyman and the bodiless voice, but also black cats and cauldrons, ravens and spiders.
How to Use Orange and Black as Halloween Colors
Today, the color orange is easy to find around Halloween, such as pumpkin patches. illuminated families of jack-o'-lanterns, charming decorations, streamers, and sweatshirts. Orange is nearly synonymous with Halloween, and it's easy to decorate with these colors, with many stores and websites offering endless options or ideas. While not as synonymous with Halloween as orange, black is not far behind. When you walk into the Halloween section of a store, you're greeted with black streamers, gloomy yet punny signs, or foreboding spooky decor.
Play on this decorative color scheme with streamers, napkins, and banners. Layer the colors together so that they pop. Include uncarved pumpkins, black and orange candles, a jack-o'-lantern illuminated with a black candle, or black and orange foods, drinks, and table decor.
Red and Orange Represent Fall, Halloween, and Blood
Like orange, red is a vibrant player in the spooky autumn season. Red and orange are a fitting Halloween pair, as the Celts would use bonfires to celebrate the changing of seasons and years, and what's more appropriate to represent fire than the colors red and orange? Not only did these fires give warmth and light, but they served a purpose: to ward off any unwanted spirits or ghosts. Today, however, these colors are more closely associated with the vibrant hues found on fall leaves. These colors also symbolize warmth or fire for cooking food, coziness, and a safe harbor from the darkness of winter. But above all, these colors represented the bountiful produce as the result of a harvest season.
On Halloween, red is a blood-chilling color. It’s the color of blood, vampires, and mortality. So, many Halloween decorations include dripping blood or blood splatters. It’s not only decorations but also costume makeup, with bloody eyes or bleeding lips, severed limbs, or a bite of flesh. Red itself has become a theme: bloody horror, bloody costumes, and bloody decorations. White makes a clean backdrop in a Halloween color scheme that includes red and orange. You may think of white as its typical association with innocence or cleanliness, which often has a spookier connotation with Halloween. But white also represents ghosts, spirits, and a bit more corporeally — bones of a skeleton.
How to Incorporate Red and Orange as Halloween Colors
Highlight the red and orange colors with perfectly selected decorations. Make a fiery statement by spinning streamers together. Punch it up even further by decorating with orange and red candles, lighting them for an eerie glowing touch. Instead of carving jack-o'-lanterns, paint on faces using red paint. Consider serving a bloody red cocktail or two for even more blood-red color for the party or movie marathon.
Green and Purple Are Modern Halloween Colors
Purple is the color of mystic and magic and something that's spiritual more than menacing, making it a good fit for Halloween, not to mention the color contrast with the orange. The colors produce a shocking and loud color combination that's giddily eye-catching. But the color purple also stands for just that: giddy children, youthful activities such as trick-or-treating (purple Halloween candy buckets are having a moment), or the laughter, haunting or otherwise, that follows behind on Halloween. Purple isn't a current-day addition. Look no further than the classic movie Beetlejuice for a prominent use of violet. From his sunken eyes to the lighting of the movie, purple plays a prominent part. However, it has moved from an eerie, foreboding color to one that makes Halloween a bit less spooky for children and those who don't enjoy a jump scare.
Green is often the color of the potion bubbling over a cauldron or a poison-filled jar with a skull warning people to stay away from its contents. Not only poisonous creations, but green also stands in for Halloween monsters and ghouls of Halloween lore. Think of Frankenstein's monster, ominously glowing fog, or tricky spirits luring you further and further into the woods. Or if science-fiction is more appealing, think of aliens and zombies.
How to Use Purple and Green as Halloween Colors
Decorate a Halloween cocktail party with posters of terrifying monsters and other Halloween creatures alongside glowing green cocktails, or embody a monster with your own Halloween make-up design. Set an eerie mood with purple and green light bulbs to cast a haunted, foggy glow upon the scene.
A Chilling and Fitting Halloween Color Scheme
Channel the roots of Halloween with the beautiful simplicity of a haunting color scheme. No matter how you may choose to honor the supernatural season with spectral hues or terrifying darkness, use these to guide you through the season and your exploration of Halloween’s roots — your dwelling will look scary-good in no time.