In my recent blog entitled, “When Does Old Begin?”(wardtanneberg.com/blog/), I concluded with, “(Old age) is a season not to run from, but one to embrace; one in which we are given the opportunity to flourish, plant, bear fruit, and be full of life (Ecclesiastes 3:1-3). And if you must, to wear purple!”
Jennifer A, of Colorado, reading this blog on Facebook commented by asking a simple question, “Why purple?”
I had mistakenly thought the phrase, “If you must, wear purple,” would resonate universally with 50+ age persons, especially those of feminine gender, having often heard women exclaim, “When I am an old woman, I will wear purple,” thereby suggesting both the will and the ability to wear and do in later life what they could not or would not wear or do in their younger years.
I asked a male Perspective reader if he was familiar with the phrase. He was not. “Actually I read your article again to see if there was a connection I had missed,” he said, “but I couldn’t find it.”
So my conundrum was apparent. A single sentence response to Jennifer’s question was not going to be as simple as first I had thought. So I set out to find what I did not know about the color Purple. It turns out, quite a bit.
For example, is Purple the right color to wear to your important business meeting tomorrow? It depends. Is your group mixed with Internationals? In China, as in the West, Purple is the color of royalty and nobility, so you may be okay. You may just get by if you are meeting with Egyptians, where Purple is the color of faith and virtue. But in India, it’s the color for reincarnation. And in Thailand and Brazil, it is the color of mourning. Who knew? Well, now you do.
Poet and writer, Jenny Joseph, composed “Warning” at age 29. This one poem continued to define her writing career. Here is Jenny, years later, reading her poem: http://www.laterbloomer.com/jenny-joseph/.
The Later Bloomer Anthology reports that in 1997, Sue Ellen Cooper of Fullerton, CA, presented her friend with a 55th birthday gift of a vintage red fedora and a copy of “Warning.” Sue Ellen went on to found the Red Hat Society, “the place where there is fun after fifty.” As of 2011, there were reportedly over 40,000 chapters in the United States and 30 other countries.
For reasons beyond my innate male ability to appreciate, Dixie, my late wife, understood colors had clear psychological implications, for her at least, beginning with my wearing matching socks. Color coordination doesn’t come naturally for me.
So what color are you wearing today?
The color Purple implies you are sensitive and compassionate, understanding and supportive, thinking of others before yourself. (Hmm. When is the last time your pastor wore Purple?). Purple lovers are told people will look to you for help, but they will also take advantage of your helpfulness. (If this is your problem, maybe you should get another favorite color.)
The Purple Heart is given to servicemen and women in recognition of valor. The color Purple is a symbol for pancreatic cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, lupus, animal abuse, Crohn’s disease, cystic fibrosis, fibromyalgia, sarcoidosis awareness, thyroid cancer, Attention Deficit Disorder, and religious tolerance.
Purple’s rarity in nature and the expense of creating its dye gave it a great deal of prestige in the Bible. It was the most expensive dye known to ancient Israelites. As early as the 15th century BC, citizens of Tyre and Sidon, on the coast of Ancient Phoenicia (present day Lebanon), were producing purple dye from a rare sea snail.
When the German chemist, Paul Friedander, tried to recreate Tyrian purple in 2008, he needed twelve thousand mollusks to create 1.4 ounces of dye, enough to color a handkerchief at a cost of about 2000 Euros.
On his second missionary journey, the Apostle Paul went to Philippi to preach the gospel (Acts 16:9-10). There he met a businesswoman named Lydia, a “seller of purple.” She was from Thyatira (Acts 16:14), a town made prosperous by producing dyed cloth, especially with the color Purple.
Lydia was financially well off due to her trade, owning homes both in Thyatira and Philippi. She and her household were Paul’s first European converts, and her home became a center for spreading the gospel in the city.
Among Christians, the Purple Advent candle demonstrates anticipation of the coming King of Kings. Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of Holy Week all use the Lenten color of Purple, symbolizing penance in preparation for Easter.
Purple seems to be a color either people love or hate, but if there is someone in your life who loves Purple, like my mother did, you may be blest with an especially caring person. And that’s not all bad.
Still, Julius and Augustus Caesar both decreed only the Emperor could wear Purple. And Nero made wearing or selling Purple punishable by death! So as far as tomorrow’s business meeting is concerned, maybe you should pick another color just to be safe.
Jennifer, hopefully you feel the humor in my tongue-in-cheek response to your question, “Why Purple?” And if you dare, wear Purple to church on Sunday.