Holiday Traditions Fill The Season In Williamsburg

Wednesday, December 1, 2004 - by Priscilla Caldwell

Williamsburg, Va. — Williamsburg’s holiday celebrations are steeped in historical traditions beginning with the first decorated Christmas tree. In 1842, German immigrant and College of William and Mary Professor Charles F. E. Minnegrode introduced the custom of decorated Christmas trees in Williamsburg, Va. His tree was described as “splendidly decorated” with gilded nuts, strings of popcorn and lighted candles.” Today, the tradition continues as Virginia’s Historic Triangle of Williamsburg, Jamestown and Yorktown dons its holiday finery for the season.

The quaint village of Yorktown ushers in the Historic Triangle’s holiday season beginning Friday, Dec. 3, with a Christmas Tree Lighting featuring the Fifes and Drums of York followed by a Lighted Boat Parade on the York River. A riverside bonfire and period tunes played by the Fifes and Drums of York Town warms hands and hearts. Saturday, Dec. 4, Yorktown opens its doors for “An Eventful Affair” including entertainment, craft demonstrations, art exhibits and an illumination of Main Street. Sunday, Dec. 5, young visitors can enjoy Cookies with Santa at the Gallery at York Hall.

In Williamsburg residents and visitors alike turn out for the annual Christmas parade Saturday, Dec. 4, featuring 100 entries of floats, marching bands, and civic clubs. The weekend’s festivities culminate Sunday, Dec. 5, first with an open house at the Williamsburg Winery. Then, that evening Colonial Williamsburg illuminates the Historic Area of town with candlelight during the Grand Illumination, concluding with a dazzling display of “ground works” (18th-century fireworks). Five outdoor stages offer various forms of entertainment throughout the afternoon and evening.

The College of William & Mary celebrates the holiday season with a Yule Log Ceremony on Saturday, Dec. 15 at 6 p.m. in the Wren courtyard. Students toss holly sprigs into Wren's Great Hall fireplace. The College President assumes his customary role as Santa in his reading of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," and Vice President for Student Affairs recites his parody, "The Night After Finals." To kindle the holiday fervor, both the Gentlemen of the College and the William and Mary Choir serenade participants with holiday carols. A Christmas tree on the Wren Building porch adorned with paper doves bearing messages of peace that people have inscribed on them.

At dusk on Christmas Eve the mayor gathers with residents and visitors to light the town tree near the Magazine on Duke of Gloucester Street. The cozy ceremony recalls that first tree that Charles Minnegrode decorated in 1842. Carolers lead the revelers in traditional songs by candlelight reminiscent of the 18th century.

Colonial Williamsburg offers daily musical and dramatic programs throughout the holiday season. Decorating workshops and walking tours delight visitors highlighting the lavish natural decorations donning the doorways of Colonial Williamsburg’s houses and stores. In Yorktown see the festive finery of the Historic Houses owned by the National Park Service. The James River Plantations of Berkeley and Shirley invite you to experience elegant teas, progressive luncheons and dinners, decorating workshops and more.

Dec. 18-31 enjoy “A Colonial Christmas” at Jamestown Settlement and the Yorktown Victory Center and learn how the early settlers spent this time of year, the hardships they endured during the 17th century and the holiday preparations of the 18th century.

Shop through Christmas Eve in Merchants Square, a re-created 19th-century shopping village, and hear the enchanting sounds of the season with musical entertainment and a variety of holiday festivities including visits from Santa. The quaint and charming village of Yorktown presents shoppers unique gifts, arts, antiques and reproductions. Prime Outlets at Williamsburg, Patriot Plaza Premium Outlets and the Williamsburg Outlet Mall offer brand-name holiday treasures at discount prices in more than 150 factory outlet stores. Antique lovers will enjoy the Williamsburg Antique Mall’s 45,000 square feet of items provided by 400 antique dealers. The Williamsburg Pottery encompasses 200 acres of crafts, ornaments, imports and more. The Williamsburg Candle Factory features hundreds of candles and accessories to brighten your home. And, make time to dine, whether you prefer a leisurely five-course meal or a buffet extravaganza, the Williamsburg area offers dining for all tastes.

Bring in the New Year with Williamsburg’s First Night, an alcohol-free celebration designed to delight visitors of all ages. Enjoy a variety of music, dancing, theater and food at various locations throughout Colonial Williamsburg and the College of William and Mary.

More than 10,000 hotel rooms provide lodging for everyone, from four-star resorts and cozy bed & breakfasts to full-service hotels and economical motels.

For complete vacation planning information, visit the web site or call toll-free 1-800-368-6511, Department 3.

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