From the blog Byzantine Frontier, a post on liturgical colors. This isn't a big, complex article but instead presents things simply and and succinctly.
Before the fourteenth century no Christian church had assigned colors for seasons, fasts or feasts the way we understand them now. There was only a very broad guideline. In the Orthodox Church the colors are specified in what is called the Typikon, but in the Typikon there are only three colors called for: general, dark and bright. That’s as specific as it gets. General is taken to mean gold. Dark is often thought of a purple (but can be red, burgundy, or even black). Bright is white but historically could also simply mean one’s nicest or most beautiful set.
So where did all of these colors come from? In the early 1500s the Roman Church came upon a set pattern of colors and seasons. They used five colors: white, red, green, violet, and black — although Spain was allowed to use blue as well. The Orthodox Church saw the use of colors used in the West and adopted (and altered) that pattern. This is usually thought to have come through Russian and perhaps from Czar Peter the Great’s experience with the West. But the adoption in the Orthodox Church was not uniform and the old Typikon still stands. Even different areas of Russia have slightly different customs for liturgical colors...
Complete post here.