The altar paraments differ by color and by Christian denomination throughout the liturgical year. For example, in the Roman Catholic Church, the altar paraments are violet during Advent, white at Christmas, and then violet during Lent. Other colors are used during Holy Week, Easter, Pentecost, Ordinary Time and various holy days.
Altar paraments, or decorations, match other decorations in the church, such as banners or tapestries. The paraments' colors are meant to symbolize a particular time of the year. For example, violet, which is often associated with royalty, is used during Advent by the Roman Catholic Church, most Anglican churches and some mainline Protestant denominations. Advent is the time immediately preceding Christmas, which marks the birth of Christ. At Christmas, white is used by these churches to represent light, which Christ's birth brings.
The use of altar paraments dates to the fourth century. The Roman Catholic Church created rules for the use of altar paraments in the 12th century. After the Reformation, some Protestant churches chose not to use altar decorations, while others followed the Roman Catholic Church's color choices. Other churches have made minor changes to the altar paraments' colors. For example, the United Church of Christ sometimes uses blue instead of violet during Advent. The Eastern Orthodox and Russian Orthodox churches have their own rules for altar parament colors.