As we mentioned in the last post, one of the highlights of every Christmas season at Colonial Williamsburg is the decorations. Made entirely from natural and hand-made materials, these festive wreaths, garlands, swags, and sprays add a splash of color to the often drab landscape of the winter city.
Christmas decorations were an integral part of the holiday season in England and Colonial Virginia, with candles abundant and evergreens, mistletoe, holly, and bright red berries brought into homes and churches to drape across mantles, wind around banisters, and frame windows and doorways. Yet while archival sources in the form of written descriptions and prints attests to the popular use of indoor decorations, there is little to no evidence to suggest anything similar was done out-of-doors.
With newly-restored Colonial Williamsburg less than a year old in 1935, researchers and historians were challenged with a way to cater to elaborate visitor expectations of what a "colonial" Christmas might have looked like. Using only natural materials, they envisioned a historically-inspired but not strictly historically accurate holiday display full of "old-fashioned" and "homemade" charm and character. As Oliver and Theobald explain, "Christmas in Williamsburg was never meant to be a re-creation of the eighteenth-century version" (41).
We took so many pictures of the decorations that we've decided to divide them into several posts. Here's a selection of doorways to Christmases past.
Sources and Resources:
- Colonial Williamsburg's "Christmas in Colonial America" page
- Kostyal, Christmas in Williamsburg
- Oliver and Theobald, Williamsburg Christmas: The Story of Christmas Decorations in the Colonial Capitol
- Rountree, Christmas Decorations from Williamsburg