Since I’m not known for powers of observation, you should not be surprised that only recently have I noticed so many homes with red doors. I could assume that it may just be something recently popularized. But nope, that’s too easy. So I did research. It turns out that there are many origins of red doors.
In Chinese culture red doors invite prosperity and good fortune into the home.
In the old world European culture, your red door would have been there to ward off evil spirits and ghosts. Ebenezer Scrooge could have used a red door.
In some religious circles the red door is a reminder of the Jewish Passover tradition of lamb’s blood over the door assuring divine protection. The other symbolism is red for the blood of Christ offering safety and protection to all who enter.
A Scottish tradition tells you to paint your front door red when the mortgage is paid off.
It can also simply mean “welcome“. It was a sign of welcome and hospitality for weary ones who traveled long distances by horse and buggy.
And, according to some sources, it designated the home as a “safe house” for those traveling north on the dangerous Underground Railroad.
I know that’s more than you wanted to know and many of you know much more than that. Believe it or not, however, there is a point here. In each of the traditions the red door carries a message of welcome, safety and goodness.
I propose that, as we prepare to cross this annual threshold into a new year, that we personally and collectively paint the door into 2013 a bright, vivid, fire engine red. We know that there are many who will “paint the town red” on New Year’s Eve but that’s not quite what I have in mind.
A red entry door into the New Year speaks to a sense of commitment to make the year safe and welcoming for the weary ones among us. There are homeless who need shelter, there are abused women and children who need a safe place, and there are families shattered by tragic death that need a welcoming community to surround them in love and comfort.
A red door into 2013 could be one that speaks peace to a war-weary world and to the hundreds of thousands who suffer loss of property or life because of things over which they have no control. It could also be a door that welcomes our veterans home who will be thankful to set foot again in the country they serve.
2013 could be the year that the New Year’s door is red to show that people and communities can be open to welcome those who feel abandoned, alone, or rejected.
Whether you realize it or not, you know who needs to see the hope and welcoming safety of a red door. May we each find the right color of red for the doors of our hearts and wills as we open them to 2013.
Dan Dixson is an ordained minister of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). He serves as supervisor of spiritual care for Partners In Home Care Hospice in Missoula and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.