, an 18th century village, in the heart of Williamsburg covers over three hundred acres and made up of eighty-eight original houses, shops, and public buildings reconstructed on their original foundations. Through fastidious research, every effort has been made to recreate the 18th century colonial capitol. Visitors to the historic area will see, hear, and experience a living history lesson about government, religion, the trades, homes, shops, taverns, clothing and culture as they go about town and chat with the colonial garbed and knowledgeable staff. Williamsburg
Pomegranate, Holly, & Boxwood Wreath
at the Courthouse
Cotton, Berries, Feather, Antlers,
& Pine Wreath at Shield’s Tavern
Eighteenth century Christmas celebrations in Virginia were primarily of English origin and limited to attending religious services, very modest gift giving, and families and friends gathering for feasting and singing. Outdoor decorating in colonial times was practically non-existent. Colonial Williamsburg began including adornments in the 1930’s in an effort to accommodate more modern traditions. The decision was made to use only materials which were available locally during the colonial period, thereby not compromising authenticity.
They use materials such as apples, oranges, pineapples, berries, pomegranates, lemons, as well as herbs, vegetables, dried flowers, shells, feathers, holly and other greenery arranged in wreaths, swags and roping. Perishable items in these decorations are replaced as needed throughout the season. Decorations are designed according to their ultimate destination. For example, dried flowers and other heartier materials are used on doors that get an abundance of sunshine, with the more perishable fruit and vegetables used in shadier areas.
The main thoroughfare in the historic district is Duke of Gloucester Street. During a daytime stroll at this season one will see practically every door decorated with original, professionally designed wreaths which will be judged and awarded ribbons in various categories.
The natural materials are embellished with pages
from 1770’s VA Gazette & Colonial Clay Pipes
at the Raleigh Tavern
Swags and evergreen roping can also be found on many of the structures. Many windows are adorned with smaller yet
Fan designs appear over some doors
similarly themed ornamentation; however they usually are affixed in the corners to allow for the visibility of the candles that will be lit at dusk.
Wrought Iron Cresset
As evening approaches battery operated or electric candles (obviously a break with the colonial tradition) are lit in every window throughout the town. This Williamsburg tradition has caught on with visitors and is now practiced all around the country. At dusk, bonfires are lit at various locations and “cressets” that line Duke of Gloucester Street will be set aflame. These wrought iron poles and baskets, 6-7 feet in height, are filled with a resinous pine, thereby providing lighting for the colonial streets.
Throughout the day and evening hours, market stands in the historic area provide visitors hot cider, coffee, chocolate and cold refreshments as well as bakery items. The taverns furnish an authentic 18th century eating experience for hungry visitors.
An a cappella group from the College of William & Mary, located at one end of Duke of Gloucester Street, as well as other singers and musical programs perform on outdoor stages throughout Colonial Williamsburg.
A spectacular fireworks display, launched simultaneously from three different sights, the Governor’s Palace, the Magazine and the Capitol is the culmination of a wonderfully festive evening. It’s no surprise that visitors return year after year.