Why Williamsburg At Christmas Is So Magical

Colonial Christmas decorations in Williamsburg will make your holidays memorable and magical. Make the trip to this storied destination and find yourself enchanted.

Colonial Williamsburg is regarded as the "Oldest Living History Museum" in the U.S. Founded as the capital of the Virginia colony in 1699, our Colonial roots have been painstakingly preserved here. Christmas festivities are especially cherished, and create a beautiful draw during the holiday season.

Colonial Williamsburg

Colonial Christmas Decorations in Williamsburg

Williamsburg takes on a new life during the holiday season when the historic buildings are decorated with thoughtful care. The traditions and Colonial Christmas decorations have gained popularity throughout the country. The historic homes here add their own candles in the windows and greenery above the doorways. Over 100 buildings are dressed up in this manner. Williamsburg celebrates in style with the historic area and art museums open to visitors throughout the holiday season.

Getting into the holiday spirit in Williamsburg starts early with the hanging of around 2,500 wreaths on the homes and buildings. Many feature fruit like pineapples and Osage oranges along with greenery. This Della Robbia style of decor was embraced in the 1930s, when Williamsburg was experiencing a significant restoration with the help of the Rockefeller family. Della Robbia wreaths are modeled on Florentine sculptor Luca della Robbia's style, but have evolved in accordance with Williamsburg Christmas traditions.

Typical materials for these wreaths have included apples, lemons, limes, oranges, pineapples, pomegranates, cranberries, bayberries, holly berries, chinaberries, rose hips, sumac berries, magnolia pods, lotus pods, milkweed pods, dried flowers, cotton bolls, rosemary, laurel, okra pods, dried cayenne peppers, mistletoe; as well as red cedar, red oak, boxwood, pine, fir, mountain laurel, magnolia, and ivy.

Williamsburg Celebrates the Holidays

The municipality's 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, we're 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, Director of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

The famous tradition of the "Colonial Williamsburg wreaths" began in 1939 thanks to Louise Fisher. As part of the holiday festivities, wreath-making workshops are offered. While these workshops can sell out quickly, visitors can also purchase a piece of the Williamsburg holiday celebration at the Palace Green.

The Community Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony is a special draw and just the right kick-off to the holiday season in Williamsburg. Another tannenbaum experience can be had with the tradition of the Christmas tree at the St. George Tucker House, first brought to town from a German professor at the College of William and Mary in 1842.

The Folk Art Christmas Tree is another favorite tradition, located in the recently expanded Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Art Museum. The tree typically features 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.

Soak In All That Williamsburg Has to Offer

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. Stay on top of the event calendar here and plan your own trip to Colonial Williamsburg.

Can't make it to Colonial Williamsburg this year? 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 crafty hands 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."

The Grand Illumination

Planned for each Saturday in December, bear witness to Williamsburg's Grand Illumination. Guests are invited to revel in the joyous bounty of the holidays as the skies are illuminated above this beautiful Colonial capital.

In the 18th century, illuminations — the firing of guns and lighting of fireworks — celebrated major events such as the birthday of a reigning sovereign, military victories, or the arrival of a new Colonial governor.

Begin your special day in Williamsburg by checking out the unique decorations throughout the Historic Area. Then, enjoy musical performances on multiple stages throughout the streets. Cap off your eventful and festive day with fireworks displays seen from the Capitol and the Palace.

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