7 Year Tea Party Winners: Susan Craft's winner of her trilogy novels - The Chamomile, Laurel, and Cassia is: Lucy Reynolds, The winner of a copy of The Backcountry Brides is: Tammy Cordery, the winner of a silver quill charm is: Kathy Maher, Choice of one of three books by Carrie Fancett Pagels in paperback: Joy Ellis, A Bouquet of Brides Collection by Pegg Thomas winner is: Becky Smith, Janet Grunst's Selah-Award winning novel, A Heart Set Free, is: Sherry Moe.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Christmas Decorating, Colonial Style

by Denise Weimer 


Even if your home is not Early American in architecture, Colonial-style Christmas decorations revive holiday cheer, especially if you term your design style traditional, shabby chic, rustic, primitive or cabin. Natural decorations can provide a much-needed break from glitter and store-bought extravaganza. And expense! A quick trip to your yard or local nursery, a few basic supplies, and you’re ready to trim your home in a manner sure to set you apart from the neighbors.

On the outside of the house:

Stick to evergreen swags and wreaths with simple red bows. Non-purists may add fresh fruit arrangements, although these were not used on the outside of houses until Colonial Revival times. Hospitality candles in the windows can’t be beat for creating a mood of welcome.

In lieu of a Christmas tree:

Trees weren’t introduced to America until the 1800s, and simple gifts during Colonial times were only given to servants the day after Christmas – and perhaps to children on New Year’s. A precursor to the evergreen tree, with a slightly more Early American feel, was a tree made of goose and turkey feathers. If you do opt for a tree, consider wrapping gifts in plain brown paper and trimming with natural fabric bows and greenery sprigs.

On the dining room table or sideboard:

  • A punch bowl ringed by apples, evergreen or holly
  • A wooden bowl or platter filled with red apples and ivy tendrils
  • An apple cone tree topped with a pineapple, filled in with small greenery and placed on a base of magnolia leaves, flanked by pineapples secured on fruit or candle holders
  • An arrangement in a china bowl of white pine, magnolia, holly and cedar – with cotton bolls as “snow”

At the fireplace:

  • Try a swag of dried apple slices and cinnamon sticks on twine
  • Pewter plates, cups and tankards interspersed with holly and evergreen on the mantel
  • A holly-topped yule log on the grate. For a party, you might include a nearby bowl of holly sprigs. Colonial English guests tossed a sprig onto the fire to burn up their troubles from the past year.

Extra touches:

  • Wrap balustrades with evergreen swags and bows.
  • Accent a key wall by covering a plaque or serving tray with magnolia leaves centered on a cluster of fruit. Pomegranates look especially festive.
  • Early Americans loved mistletoe. A Norse legend credited a cluster with not only commanding a kiss, but guaranteeing luck and fertility as well.
  • Tuck holly sprigs behind Old English prints and mirror, and mass it around pewter plates.

Research from Internet and “Christmas in Williamsburg,” The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 1970, photos by Taylor Biggs Lewis, Jr.


  1. I enjoyed this! Colonial Christmases weren't celebrated with all the fanfare of the present, so I'm always interested to learn of ways Christmas was celebrated in Early America. Thank you, Denise!

  2. Thanks for sharing. This was interesting.

  3. I enjoyed this blog post. I like the older ways of celebrating Christmas and prefer simplier decorations. Thank you for sharing. God bless. Merry Christmas to all.

  4. I would so love to decorate this way... If I decorated. (I'm not a scrooge, really!) For decades, I've wanted to visit Williamsburg at Christmastime. It must be amazing!

  5. I love the thought of doing Christmas in a simpler fashion, too! One of my favorite Christmas memories through the years is of performing vintage dances at Traveler's Rest GA, an early 1800s stagecoach inn. They decorated in this manner and served the best cider and sugar cookies. Our group's open hearth cook made dinner for all the living historians!

  6. Thanks for sharing this bit of history. I like the idea of the dried apples and cinnamon sticks on twine.

  7. This was fun! Thanks for sharing this!


Thanks for commenting, please check back for our replies!