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Things to Do in Colonial Williamsburg at Christmastime

Colonial Williamsburg

Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia is lovely, quaint, and heart-warming all year round, but never more so than during its Christmas season, which runs from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day.

Christmastime in Williamsburg is a sensual feast of leaf-strewn brick walkways, period music, hearty food, creative decorations, and crisp air wafting with the mingled aromas of evergreens and burning fires.

I try to go for at least a day every December.  Where else can you celebrate the holidays with fireworks, a Palace concert, and dinner with George and Martha Washington?

The purpose of this post is to help you plan your own colonial Christmas.

The heart of the Christmas season in Colonial Williamsburg is the special programming, the holiday events that occur only during the five-week period.  Highlights include:

Thanksgiving Proclamation

Step back to 1789, and listen as President Washington proclaims a non-sectarian day of “public thanksgiving and prayer”.

Lighting of the Cressets

Cressets are the earliest known form of public street lighting.  They’re metal baskets, perched atop poles, filled with wood chips.  At sunset, the wood chips are set aflame as music plays on Duke of Gloucester Street.

A Celebration of the Yule Log

Music accompanies a burning Yule log as it travels by wagon down Duke of Gloucester Street.  By tradition, lighting a Yule log may symbolize the birth of Jesus or His triumph over sin.

Grand Illuminations

In the 18th century, illuminations marked major events such as the birthday of a reigning sovereign, military victories, or the arrival of a new colonial governor with fireworks and gun salutes.  On Saturdays in early to mid-December, Colonial Williamsburg continues the tradition with musical performances on multiple stages throughout the brick streets and fireworks displays from the Capitol building and the Governor’s Palace.

Walking Tours

Theatrical Performances


Music was an important facet of 18th-century life, especially during the Christmas season.  There are lots of concerts at the Art Museums, the Courthouse, and the Governor’s Palace.

Firing of the Christmas Guns

Gunfire expresses joy and celebration on Christmas Eve.

Special Dining

There are lots of places to eat in Williamsburg, including historic taverns and hotel restaurants.  These venues offer several special events during Christmastide, including:

Colonial Williamsburg is popular during Christmastime, and grows more so later in December.  I recommend going early in the season and making your plans as soon as possible.  Please note that many of the events highlighted here require special tickets, beyond your general admission passes to Colonial Williamsburg.  For more information, please check out Colonial Williamsburg’s holiday planner.

And don’t forget to wish the Washingtons a Merry Christmas!

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Resources to help plan your trip to
Colonial Williamsburg

Find flights.  There are three small airports near Williamsburg:

Search hotel rooms/suites.  The best lodging options in Colonial Williamsburg are:

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Use the right rewards credit cards.  Some good options that pay you cash-back or travel points:

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Read reviews.  Not sure about something?  Tripadvisor has lots of real-people reviews for things to do in Williamsburg

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