Venture to Colonial Williamsburg at Christmastime, and you'll see virtually every building in the historic area dressed in holiday attire. Decorations made of fresh fruit and woodland foliage grace many a door and window. As appropriate as evergreen wreaths and garlands seem for this centuries-old restored village, they're actually a relatively new tradition. While it's known that Virginia colonists displayed freshly cut holly, pine, and mistletoe inside their homes at Christmas, there's little evidence that they decorated the exteriors. For a consistent style of outdoor decor, researchers consulted period prints, artwork, and nursery catalogs.
Ideas at Every Turn
Stroll down the town's main thoroughfare, Duke of Gloucester Street, to see wreaths, garlands, and plaques of greenery adorning dozens of homes and shops. Evergreens provide a verdant base for the decorations. Dried materials, such as okra pods, red cockscomb, cinnamon sticks, peppers, and orange slices give texture and color. Wreaths are often customized for the location: You'll sometimes find cotton bolls among greenery at the milliner's shop.
Creativity abounds in the colorful wreaths of Williamsburg. Designers make them entirely of greenery, pinecones, or vines, and they also combine these materials in various ways. For example, grapevine may be placed on top of a boxwood wreath, and then decorations are added.