Christmas, Holidays

Christmas All Through the South: Colonial Williamsburg

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.

jain     michael lee     mary


~~ from here in the North with fond memories of my Christmas fun in the South ~~

Linda 🙂

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17 thoughts on “Christmas All Through the South: Colonial Williamsburg

  1. Wow, I haven’t been there since I was a teen (However I did recognize two buildings!!) I love these wreaths and there is certainly a lot of inspiration there. I love the one that has a circular bunch of magnolia leaves that resemble a bow. Hope one of the “girls” got to join you on this trip! Merry Christmas!

  2. Linda, I thoroughly enjoyed my trip with you to Williamsburg and I’m so glad you shared your photos of your delightful destination! I haven’t visited Williamsburg in 30+ years and have always wanted to visit in December and see all the natural greenery, garland, apple cone trees and pineapples. I love the oyster shells paired with the quince, pomegranates, artichokes and cinnamon sticks. The use of tankards are so clever over the tavern doorways with the greenery along with the apples in the brick alcoves…someone had a lot of patience and a very tall ladder!
    I loved seeing you fire that musket! Your hubby timed the photo just right to capture the shot and fire from the barrel! Thanks for the colonial fun this morning and burning the midnight oil to share your week long adventure and vacation 🙂

  3. I, for one, am thrilled that you took time from your holiday preparations to visit Williamsburg. I’ve never been there, but it’s on my bucket list, and now that my oldest is living in Virginia, why, I have the perfect excuse! I don’t know why we never seem to ride the horses or carriages when we travel, but starting now, that’s about to change. Now, why haven’t we done it? The idea hasn’t even entered our head! And you even remembered the horses’ names. How lovely! The wreaths are all beautiful in their own unique way. How creative! I’d take the one with the cotton balls and the pomegranate. And did no one questioned the credentials of a New England girl firing a Southern musket? How fun! That picture of you is wonderful! Merry Christmas, Linda! Wishing you and your family a love-filled holiday season.

  4. Thank you for sharing. I really enjoyed every pic, I am curious to understand the reason for the hole in the bricks, other than to hold apples!

  5. Williamsburg is a beautiful place to visit, and I was happy to see they kept the decor very understated….that is, until you showed all that gorgeous detail of all those wreaths! I’ve never seen so many wonderful interpretations of the wreath. So many to choose from, but I really love the pineapple, pine cones, apples & cotton – all that color. The winning ameteur wreaths were also favorites, but yes, the Governor’s Palace wreaths would make a stunning display for your region too.

    Have a very Merry Christmas, Linda!

    1. PS…no I’ve never shot a musket, but what a very cool shot of you doing it! And those holes in the brick….were those once filled with architectural plates (often with stars on the exterior) to lend support to the structure? Funny that’s the only building with them?

  6. Oh what a treat for us to see your trip in the south! This is why I love the novel bakers, we all get out and do things we would not normally have the time for so that we can enjoy it and share with others, all based on the love of sharing books.

    I love the Shell with the leaves, that’s a beautiful arrangement. The mixture of oysters with artichokes and citrus and pomegranates is so California! Although something I never would’ve thought up 😉

    I am loving your wreath tour, truly magical! The scales look so clever don’t they get wind in Williamsburg?!
    The Apple is tucked in the wall are unique. I cannot get over the variety of wreaths, each one you shared is spectacular.

    The governors palace wreath is so interesting, I grow pomegranates and loads of boxwood and pick up oyster shells daily at the beach, i have pyracantha and toyon berries, what’s stopping me!

    Thank you first sharing such a special tour and absolutely perfect for our Christmas in the south!

  7. Linda, I loved traveling to Williamsburg at Christmas with you. I have been several times but not lately. I love their traditional and natural decor. My husband has made the traditional apple and pineapple fan wreath for years and we shared the tutorial this year. I love the book and have been rereading it over the past few days! Merry Christmas!

  8. Oh my goodness Linda, I have been pouring over these beautiful Williamsburg decorations! Such a creative use of natural elements and textures, this is what Christmas is about, appreciating and celebrating what we are blessed with! Williamsburg always reminds me of my parents, they loved visiting there, and took me several times as a child. I bet you had a wonderful time experiencing Christmas there, a dream come true for you! I have pinned a lot of the wreaths, I love the oyster shells, and the peacock feathers, fascinating! I wish you the happiest of holidays, and thank you for making this week extra special with the Novel Bakers and sharing this incredible book. Merry Christmas!

  9. Very nice photographs of lovely natural wreaths. Lucky you to have a pretty blue-sky day for visiting Colonial Willimasburg. We have not yet been there, yet it is on our list. We have Henry Ford’s Greenfield Village in our neck of the woods. Thanks, Linda, for taking the time to share during this busy week. May you and your family have a blessed holiday season.

  10. Linda, I lost my comment. I’ll try again.
    Thanks for the tour of Williamsburg. Love all the beautiful wreaths. The peacock one is my favorite just because it is hard to have that many feathers and I love the colors.
    We were in Williamsburg on a very cold day in November about five years ago and before that it had been many years. It is a lovely area and has so much history to enjoy.
    I am so impressed you shot a musket! No, I have never done that!
    Somehow I missed the Christmas All Through the South book. This is a lovely book for the Novel Bakers. Look forward to more. You are right this is a busy time and I will be traveling but I’ll try to catch up later.

  11. Linda, I visited this morning, but had to return this evening to enjoy this all once again. I thought I left a comment earlier, but don’t see it. Who knows?
    At any rate, I have to say that the wreaths are gorgeous, each one. We visited Williamsburg during the Christmas season in 1995. It’s a treat! I loved seeing your photos and thinking back to our own visit. Thanks for taking us along.
    This is such a busy week, hats off to the Novel Bakers for creating these amazing posts. Merry, Merry!

  12. Linda, this was a treat! I love Williamsburg but haven’t been there since Bandwidth was a baby. We went the first week of December (all those years ago), and the Colonial village didn’t decorate that “early” in those days, so your photos brought to life everything I always hoped to see. Your tour of wreaths was phenomenal! I love the pomegranate and oyster shell wreath, and the gate is pure art. Looking forward to Wednesday!

  13. I’ve spent the morning catching up and enjoying your posts. I’ve always wanted to see colonial Williamsburg…especially having lived in a home built in 1730. Seeing it decorated for Christmas really has to be special.

  14. Sorry to post so late but I just found this. I grew up not far from Williamsburg. It is so beautiful at Christmas.
    My other favorite stop is the saltware pottery in Lightfoot. I remember when it was just a little shed near the highway.
    Thanks for the tour.

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