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Christmas in Colonial Williamsburg

Updated on December 10, 2022
Patty Inglish, MS profile image

In many ways, music saved my life, and I have the most famous director of the USMC bands to thank for it!

A reenactor in front of the Royal Governor's Palace.
A reenactor in front of the Royal Governor's Palace. | Source

An Awesome Historic Site

The first time I visited Williamsburg as a child, the site included just two blocks of old buildings on a muddy street and admission was free. Nearby streets of historic buildings were closed to the public, pending preservation activities that can be seen in completion today. What a change a couple of decades have made!

Years ago, at the end of the two-block park, sat a train track on which we could visit one railroad car. In it was a display of silkworms spinning silk and this fascinated me. Aside from three volunteers in period costumes on the street and some small exhibits to view, this was the entirety of Colonial Williamsburg. Modern expansions have resulted in a whole city of Colonial U.S. culture and history, along with entertaining performances, merchants, tours, carriage rides, and even a Christmas Town.

Free shuttle busses run from 9:00am to 10pm daily, from the headquarters building to all points around the park. In addition, the park is ADA compliant and special accommodations can be made beyond the easy accessibility to many areas.

The Historic Area of Williamsburg and the two art museums are open daily to the public with admission, even on Christmas Day

The Historic Governor's Palace
The Historic Governor's Palace | Source

The Governor's Grand Ball

An official grand ball for all ages is held at the Governor’s Palace during December. Although period costumes are not required, visitors can dance and chat with folks in costume and listen to the Governor’s Musick Ensemble for an hour from either 7:00-8:00pm or 7:30-8:30pm during the first two Fridays in December.

The Governor’s Musick Ensemble also performs a Christmas concert at the House of Burgesses on Sundays.

Wreaths of winter Williamsburg

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Decorated door for holidays. -- Notice the drum sticks and fifes representing the American Revolution.
Decorated door for holidays. -- Notice the drum sticks and fifes representing the American Revolution.
Decorated door for holidays. -- Notice the drum sticks and fifes representing the American Revolution. | Source

Williamsburg Historic District

Williamsburg Historic District Headquarters:
101 Visitor Center Dr, Williamsburg, VA 23185, USA

get directions

Bounded by Francis, Waller, Nicholson, N. England, Lafayette, and Nassau Streets. The HQ is about 6 miles from Christmas Town.

Williamsburg Governor's Palace:
300 Palace Green St, Williamsburg, VA 23185, USA

get directions

Merchants Square:
134 N Henry St, Williamsburg, VA 23185, USA

get directions

Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art and DeWitt Wallace Art Museums:
301 S Nassau St, Williamsburg, VA 23185, USA

get directions

American Indian Encampment Site, East Nicholson Street, Williamsburg:
E Nicholson St, Williamsburg, VA 23185, USA

get directions

Williamsburg Capitol Building:
E Duke of Gloucester St, Williamsburg, VA 23185, USA

get directions

Christmas Town at Busch Gardens Williamsburg:
Busch Gardens Christmas Town, 1 Busch Gardens Blvd, Williamsburg, VA 23185, USA

get directions

Christmas traditional cannon firing.
Christmas traditional cannon firing. | Source

Modern Expansion

Williamsburg supports an ongoing multi-million-dollar construction and archeological expansion, including two art museums since Spring 2017:

  • Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum: 326 West Francis Street
    Williamsburg, VA 23185
  • DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum: Same address.

Additional Arts Celebrations

  • Annual arts festival called An Occasion for the Arts, held during the first week in October.
  • Second Sundays: From March through December every year, street artists perform throughout Williamsburg.
  • Virginia Arts Festival: Musical performances of all kinds from international guests are celebrated all year.

African American reenactment and interpretation was added to the park in 1979. The American Indian Encampment was added next.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
A workshop attached to a historic house.The Peyton Randolph House in the heart of Colonial Williamsburg
A workshop attached to a historic house.
A workshop attached to a historic house. | Source
The Peyton Randolph House in the heart of Colonial Williamsburg
The Peyton Randolph House in the heart of Colonial Williamsburg | Source

More Successful Than Massachusetts Colony

The first year that colonists arrived in what would become Massachusetts was a horror. It was hard for the colonists and hard for the local natives. A bit later, Myles Standish earned the white man's "Indian" name Wotowquenange, which means "cutthroat stabbers."

The Massachusetts settlement had no food or running water. The colonists brought no seed for crops, but they brought kegs of beer. Many died of disease, malnutrition, and hypothermia during the first winter. However, Williamsburg settlers fared better.

Fireworks in the historic district.
Fireworks in the historic district. | Source

Reenactors Show How Williamsburg Succeeded

The first non-native settlers in Virginia eagerly caught fish, clams, and even whales. Soon, they could sell excess fish, whale oil, and whale blubber at fish markets that rose up on locally built docks. Folks also hunted, gathered, and farmed when they learned how, working about 12 - 14 hours a day. At the historic site, dozens of men, women, and young people reenact what it was like to live in early Williamsburg.

When colonists became farmers, they raised the crops of corn (maize), barley, wheat, tobacco, and rice. They took their crops to town on Saturdays to the weekly Farmers' Market, which we also now have today! They sold to fur traders, seamen, merchants, and others. Farmers also raised chickens, pigs, and cows. If they were fortunate, they had fruit trees.

At home, the women and girls spent all day baking bread, cooking, gathering food for natural sources, helping on the farm, sewing, making their own threads and wool and cotton yarns and cloth, etc. You an see all this happening inside the historic buildings.

Map of the expanded park.
Map of the expanded park. | Source

Historical Vacations

The United States Park Service and the US States make available a large number of historical landmarks to the local American public and visitors. The National Registry of Historic Places, local registries, and a wealth of historical societies offer travelers a chance to see The Thirteen Colonies as they were in the 1600s and 1700s.

Along with commercial enterprises, all of these entities produce vacation theme parks, some with working farms and villages like Williamsburg that are interesting and fun to visit. Such a trip to even one of these places can provide insight into the daily life of the American colonists.

During November, December, and early January, the people of the town and national park that is Colonial Williamsburg celebrate American Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's, inviting travelers and local guests to attend gala dinners and parties in the style of the Colonies. It's a great way to spend Christmas.

Virginia is the first of the original colonies, and Colonial Williamsburg is a sound place to start when looking for daily colonial life and a traditional American Christmas.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Historic house in the complex.
Historic house in the complex.
Historic house in the complex. | Source

The Original 13 Colonies

For review, the Original 13 Colonies are listed below, along with their working farms and historic villages that operate to bring travelers back to the days before the American Revolution.

The 13 Colonies

  1. Virginia Commonwealth, founded 1606
  2. Massachusetts: 1620
  3. New Hampshire: 1623
  4. New Jersey: 1623
  5. New York: 1624
  6. Maryland: 1633
  7. Rhode Island: 1636
  8. Connecticut: 1636
  9. Delaware: 1638
  10. North Carolina: 1653
  11. South Carolina: 1663
  12. Pennsylvania: 1682
  13. Georgia: 1732


  • Brems, R. Step back in time at Colonial Williamsburg. Coshocton Tribune; November 20, 2018.
  • City of Williamsburg, Virginia.
  • Colonial Williamson at
  • Routh, M.; Routh, K. It's time to remember what Colonial Williamsburg means. Virginia Gazette; November 24, 2018.
  • The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2010 Patty Inglish MS


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