Christmas in Williamsburg

Quiz: Do you own a Christmas sweater? Do you resent synthetic Christmas trees?Have you ever been to Colonial Williamsburg between Thanksgiving and New Years?
If you answer Yes, Yes, and No, I suggest you quit reading this and book a trip for next year. Because, my friend, your butt belongs in Williamsburg!
Christmas in Williamsburg is special. Yes, it’s a tourist attraction but it’s as close to authentic Christmas spirit as I have ever felt or seen in person. The Historic District’s holiday decorations are made entirely of natural materials available in 18th century Virginia. Some 700+ wreaths and swags are displayed on the various merchant and residential buildings, illuminated by candles and wood burning torches. Fife and drum marches are frequent. And on certain days, if you are lucky, the whole town smells like chocolate. Let’s go!
Now, historically speaking, the Colonials’ holiday decorations probably would have been much more humble compared to today, but the tradition here is long and well loved. Every year The Grand Illumination is the official “kick-off” for Williamsburg’s Christmas season (this year it’s Sunday, December 4, if you happen to be in the area). I was lucky enough to get to make some wreaths in the traditional fashion, and let me tell you, it’s harder than it looks! There was no hot glue in the 1700s, that’s for hell sure.
Chownings Tavern, above, who serves and excellent welsh rarebit btw, displays a new and interesting wreath each year. Last year it was oysters and dried status on a bed of Virginia Pinecones. This year it’s field flowers, shells and berries in pewter ale cups.
I have been going to Colonial Williamsburg since I was a kid, as has most everyone in southeast Virginia and the mid-Atlantic area in general. It’s just what you do. It’s a popular place. A tourist trap, I suppose.
It’s hard to explain if you have never been there in person. Sometimes people think Williamsburg is like Disneyland (fake) or Amish Country (real), but the truth is somewhere in-between; Williamsburg is a wonderland of American history. The city, the streets, the buildings and the artifacts within are all real –the people are not. The people are actors hired by the CW foundation to perform the roles of individuals who lived in Williamsburg in the 18th century—everyone from famous presidents to scullery maids can be found in costume, in character, roaming the streets of Williamsburg on any given day.
Prepare for them to greet you with a “Good Day Madam” and an obligatory bow.
It’s awesome. 
In a way, it’s sort of like a giant renaissance fair except it’s up and running all year round. And the buildings are real. And the history is real. And important stuff happened here. And there’s no one named Gilgamesh running an elf and fairy tattoo in the parking lot.
Did I mention it’s awesome?
Did I also mention that my cousin works there managing the actors?
This time we got to roam around town with her and get the background on all sorts of stuff that I had never known. That’s her in the blue coat in front of the Governor’s Palace, bottom left corner. Sometimes she gets to wear a costume, and, get this: next week her job will require her to attend a ball. IN A COLONIAL BALLGOWN.
Shut up.
Wreaths utilize everything old shoes to antlers.
Apparently the Colonials were very fond of cards, as this home uses them to decorate their front door.
Want to see more pictures of Christmas decorations in Colonial Williamsburg?
Interested in visiting Colonial Williamsburg to see it for yourself? Visit their website.


  1. Michele says

    That’s awesome. Will have to make put that on the calendar. Antlers? Of course!!!

  2. says

    No, Yes and YES!!!! I agree, life is not complete without a Christmas trip to Williamsburg. The wreath with the cotton is perfect!

  3. says

    Even though I spent 13 years of my life a mere 45 minutes or less from Colonial Williamsburg, I only made it once during Christmas Season. We were going to go last Friday, but it just didn’t happen. These are some great photos, and it really makes me wish we had actually gone!

  4. Melissa says

    I’m a student at William and Mary and I live right next to Colonial Williamsburg, literally right on Richmond Road. While I’m currently drowning in finals, this post reminded me to go out and enjoy all the Christmas spirit! Thanks so much!

  5. April Cole says

    WOW… such lovely wreaths!
    Sounds like a great place for Christmas Traditions :]

  6. Pkgo says

    Seriously, I want a job like hers.

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