It’s Christmas week, what better time for the Novel Bakers to share a wonderful book from Southern Living: Christmas All Through the South! Not only does this book include tempting recipes (and not only extremes such as Martha Washington’s Great Cake with 4 pounds of sugar and 40 eggs), inspirational decor ideas, and essays from southern writers on such diverse topics as Rick Bragg’s childhood wish for a sled ride and Julia Reed’s cocktail supper ideas, but there is also a chapter entitled “Delightful Destinations” which includes some of my favorites. One of these is Colonial Williamsburg. For many years I have hoped to visit during Christmas time to see the famous decorations, and this year I finally ignored the little voice in my head saying “you must be crazy–it’s Christmas! No time for all this fun!” And as I write this in the middle of the night and think of all the things still on my ‘to do’ list I’m still very happy that I was able to actually spend some Christmas in the South!
Each December Colonial Williamsburg is decorated with simple white candles in every window and wreaths and garlands of natural materials. Nothing can be used which was not available to the inhabitants during the 1770s! Of course, the colonists would never have decorated in this manner at all. Simple sprigs of greenery in windows and around doors, refreshing beverages, and citrus on the table for color and aroma would have been the usual Christmas customs. But during the time Colonial Williamsburg was being revived, the custom of making wreaths from natural material arose, and has become a favorite tradition. Let me share some of my favorites with you.
This one is what I typically think of as Colonial Williamsburg style: cinnamon sticks, artichokes, quince, pomegranates, and oyster shells. I love it and would use it on my own house.
An unusual color combination of pink and lime green, with a tiny pineapple and catalpa pods:
Another recognizable Williamsburg look with lady apples and boxwood:
This is another favorite of mine, with pinecones, apples, cotton pods and a pineapple.
Lotus pods are a popular choice, as here with oranges, pomegranates, quince, pinecones, and hops!
These lotus pods are covered in moss.
Another favorite of mine, very lush and colorful.
Although this may seem unusual, peacocks were kept and were a delicacy at colonial tables!
Many of the tradespeople made wreaths using tools and materials from their businesses. This is the shoemaker. Can you see the pieces of cotton and the leather shoe?
The blacksmith made one of my favorites. Tools, coal, jalapeño peppers to indicate fire, and a strip of tin to stand in as a ribbon.
This house clearly belongs to the local barrister or judge!
Even little houses on the side streets were decorated.
The wreath from that cute house included pears, artichokes and garlic!
Duke of Gloucester Street is the main thoroughfare, with the Capitol at one end.
Although it does not have any greenery, at night it is lit up like this:
Nearby is an interesting house with regular holes in the brickwork. In all my visits I have never noticed them, but this time I couldn’t miss!
Every hole was filled with a single apple.
The taverns were each decorated with appropriate elements. Look closely over the doorway of the King’s Arms Tavern.
The mugs, which are actually used in the tavern and are designed from fragments found on the property, are nestled in magnolia leaves.
And nearby, Chownings Tavern is decorated with tin mugs and oyster shells.
Blue ribbons are given to the best amateur and the best professional decor. Here you can see the house of the unicorn, with a blue ribbon hanging on the door.
This house won for best professional decor.
The winning house for an amateur was one of my very favorites.
Three wreaths, with cotton, apples, lemons, pomegranates and magnolia leaves on a grapevine base.
But the absolute best was at the Governor’s Palace.
Simple yet not rustic; elegant and welcoming but not stuffy.
The lion and unicorn gates were adorned with a green garland of white pine.
And the wreath wanted to come home with me. I’ll be saving my oyster shells next summer!
I could show you so many more wreaths ~~ I have over a thousand pictures from five days! But this Delightful Destination has much more to offer. We never miss a chance to ride the horses or carriages wherever we go. Jewel and Diamond pulled our carriage one day.
This time we had the chance to ride the red carriage, which Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip rode when she visited long ago as the new Queen of England. So interesting to think of her visiting the scene of the colonial rebellion headquarters! She loved her visit and came again in the 80s. This carriage, meant to be for daily social calls, was so comfortable!
Toby and Sergeant pulled us on another day.
The area where they are shaved is where the harnesses would otherwise be rubbing. Our driver told us the horses love their shave time, going into a trace like we would at a massage! I was happy to hear that.
Now most colonists, man or woman, would know how to fire a musket. While I was thrilled to see the decor and ride the carriages and indulge in way too many goodies, the most exciting part of our trip was learning to load and fire an actual black powder musket that the colonists used. We were taken to a range and given goggles, earphones, and large tent-like shirts to wear to protect our clothing from black powder and sparks. They were enormous and I could have fit a few of you in there with me. On Christmas Day in the 18th century the colonists fired their muskets to celebrate this joyous event! In the 21st century it is still tremendous fun but extremely exhausting, filling the pan with powder, worrying about doing it correctly, lifting the (very) heavy musket and holding it steady, and I would not have wanted to be in the battles where brave men risked their lives in their quest to be free.
Throughout this excellent book there are descriptions of experiences and scenery which remind me of our time in Colonial Williamsburg.
“…magnolias are green and glossy, mock oranges glisten in the sun light, Cherokee-rose apples shine among the glossy leaves…”
“… what’s wonderful about the South is that it is ripe with adventure around the holidays…”
~~ and this excerpt from a poem by Maya Angelou ~~
Hope spreads around the earth. Brightening all things.
Do you have a favorite wreath? Do you love to ride horses or carriages when you travel? And have you ever shot a musket??
Please be sure to visit the Novel Bakers for much holiday cheer and inspiration.
MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL
~~ from here in the North with fond memories of my Christmas fun in the South ~~