Colonial Williamsburg Christmas Wreaths

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Christmas is a festive season filled with celebration, merriment, decorations, and gift-giving.

Today this spirit of Christmas dominates our culture for months before the actual day of celebration, but there was a time when you could be fined for even attempting to be festive. This was true of 18th century New England, where Christmas celebrations were frowned upon and evergreen decorations were associated with pagan custom.

Virginia, however, had a much different story than the colonies in the North. Their view was that Christmas was not a holiday, but a twelve day season to be celebrated with church, drinking, dancing, eating, and some evergreens.

As I strolled up and down Duke of Gloucester Street, it was the evergreen wreaths decorating the doorways of every building throughout Colonial Williamsburg that first caught my attention. Their intricate beauty, use of unique materials, and bright colors spurred a desire to take the Christmas Decorations Walking Tour, so I could learn more about what has become a Williamsburg Christmas tradition.

Colonial Williamsburg Home

The tour began outside the Lumber House Ticket Office, where our guide rounded us all up. We crossed Duke of Gloucester Street and stood in front of Bruton Parish Church, which was lacking the decorative wreaths that adorned nearly every other building throughout Colonial Williamsburg. We were told that this sight was actually commonplace during that time period, as the decorations were usually reserved for the interiors.

Christmas Wreaths in Williamsburg

As we made our way down Palace Green to admire the buildings decked in their holiday splendor, we learned that the famous Christmas wreath tradition didn’t originate in Williamsburg, nor did it begin during colonial times. The current custom — known as Colonial Revival — was inspired by Italian sculptor Luca della Robbia in the 1930’s. Renowned for crowning his sculptures with wreaths, the idea was stolen and quickly swept the nation. Shortly thereafter, a contest was launched to “convince” residents of Colonial Williamsburg to conform to this new way of decorating. A few rules were instituted — wreaths were to have a theme that matched the house and residents must keep them looking presentable — and the Williamsburg Christmas tradition was born!

Colonial Williamsburg Christmas Wreath

Colonial Williamsburg Christmas Wreaths

The coveted purple ribbon is awarded to the wreath that uses materials that last the longest.

Colonial Williamsburg Christmas Decorations

Colonial Williamsburg Wreath Decorations

Williamsburg Christmas Decorations Tour

A Menorah “wreath”, a unique spin on the Williamsburg tradition.

Menorah Decoration in Colonial Williamsburg

Colonial Williamsburg Christmas Wreath Decorations

Colonial Williamsburg Christmas Doorways

Williamsburg Christmas Decorations

Colonial Williamsburg House

Colonial Williamsburg Christmas Doorway

Williamsburg Christmas Wreaths

Colonial Williamsburg Doorways

Christmas Wreaths on Doors

Williamsburg Christmas Decorations (2)

Oranges, apples, pinecones, seashells, artichokes, and even corks — any material is fair game for the wreaths.

Colonial Williamsburg Cork Wreath

Christmas Wreath

Colonial Williamsburg Christmas

Williamsburg Christmas Wreath on Red Door

Christmas Decorations Walking Tour
Greenhow Lumber House, Duke of Gloucester Street
Admission: $10 with Colonial Williamsburg admission | $15 without admission
Duration: 1 hour
Tickets can also be purchased inside the Visitors Center

Christmas Wreath in Williamsburg


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Christmas Doorways