Why Williamsburg at Christmas is So Magical, Especially Now
2,500 wreaths, y’all.
Colonial Williamsburg takes on new life during the holiday season when the historic buildings are decorated with care. The traditions and decor have gained popularity throughout the country, with homes adding their own candles in the windows and greenery above the doorways of over 100 buildings. And while this year is a bit different, Williamsburg is still celebrating in style with the historic area and art museums open to visitors with safety precautions.
Colonial Williamsburg gets into the holiday spirit early with around 2,500 wreaths hung around the homes and buildings. Many feature fruit like pineapples and Osage oranges along with greenery. Some even feature items from the businesses like playing cards at the tavern and pipes at the pipemaker’s shop.
The landscaping team begins their preparations during the summer months, selecting the types of greenery and plant life that will be displayed, focusing on what’s local to Virginia.
“In July, I’m already ordering our greenery which consists of almost 900 wreaths, white pine and Fraser fir wreaths and 11,400 linear feet of white pine roping,” says Joanne Chapman, Colonial Williamsburg’s landscape manager.
The famous “Colonial Williamsburg wreaths” were originally inspired by the work of Italian sculptor Luca Della Robbia. Colonial Williamsburg began creating them in 1939 thanks to Louise Fisher. While the wreath-making workshops are mostly sold out, visitors can purchase these elaborate wreaths at Palace Green on December 5, 12, 17, and 19.
While the St. George Tucker House is closed during the pandemic, there’s no shortage of places to find stunning Christmas trees. The Community Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony will be virtual and stream on Colonial Williamsburg’s Facebook page Dec. 17 due to COVID-19.
The Folk Art Christmas Tree is another favorite tradition, located in the recently expanded Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Art Museum. This year’s tree is 16 feet tall and has over 3,000 ornaments handmade by friends, employees, and volunteers. It’s topped with a rooster weathervane reproduced by Steve Chabra, the Architectural Preservation Project Supervisor.
Admire the incredible decorations on walking tours of Colonial Williamsburg, offered throughout December. The one-hour tour describes the historic decor found throughout the historic area. You can learn more about how to plan your own trip to Colonial Williamsburg here.
Can’t make it to Colonial Williamsburg? They have an incredible selection of virtual offerings including virtual tours, educational videos, colonial recipes, and even coloring pages. You can also create your own seasonal look in your own home.
“I think the iconic Williamsburg look is definitely using fruit. If they have access to magnolia leaves, that certainly adds a traditional Williamsburg element,” says Chapman. But fret not if your region doesn’t have the types of greenery found in Virginia.
“Maybe there’s a favorite Christmas ornament or something they can use with fresh greens instead of fruit,” notes Laura Viancour, Colonial Williamsburg’s director of landscaping. “Something that just gives that feeling of an old-fashioned Christmas.”
Did You Know?
While on pause this year, the tradition of the Christmas tree at the St. George Tucker House was first brought to town from a German professor at the College of William and Mary in 1842.