Every year, the first Sunday of December, Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia opens the Holiday Season with Grand Illuminations, a patriotic nod to the American Colonial celebration of Christ’s birth. It begins with the crowd gathering at dusk at the Capital at the east end of Duke of Gloucester Street.
The street lights are lite by fathers and sons: Bon fires in metal baskets of the period suspended high above heads.
And then the crowds follows the fife and drums of British Red Coats down Glouster and towards the Royal Palace. There, on the Palace Green, all are welcomed, a proclamation from King George III is read to his Royal Subjects in the Americas, wishing us all a Happy Christmas. And then the fireworks begin. Literally. Christmas carols are sung, English ale or hot cider is enjoyed, and gingerbread is shared
After an hour or more of this, crowds break up. Some return to their homes (hotels), some meander in the streets, and some gather to hear a Christmas sermon in the church of their choice. But always, the Christmas story from Luke is read aloud in Old World English.
The following days are spent walking from shop to shop, from home to home, farm to farm, where food is shared and splendid decorations are enjoyed: many pay homage to back home in England. Fruit is used, both fresh and dried, especially miniature pineapple, a symbol of Colonial Welcome. (Ship Captains and crew always brought back pineapple from their Pacific voyages, giving it to their wives or girlfriends this, a unique and treasured gift. Pineapple symbols are found even today all along Colonial Era New England Atlantic Coast towns/cities from Maine to the Carolinas.)
In meager times, fruit would not have been used for decoration, but rather for cooking and nutrition. However, as a tribute the the era, today home grown vegetable garden produce, berries, honeycomb, fruit from backyard orchards in the historical area, all are used to celebrate God’s blessing these hard-working British Colonists. After the Revolution, the new Republic continued these holiday celebrations and traditions.
So, if these photos appeal to you, consider a trip to Williamsburg. I usually fly into Norfolk, then drive to Williamsburg. But I’ve also gone to Washington DC first, toured Mt. Vernon and Colonial Alexander or Annapolis, then drive to Williamsburg and also Jefferson’s Monticello. And if the Colonial Era excites you as it does me, listen to podcasts, read the history of the era on the web by merely typing “Colonial Williamsburg”. In person, or virtual tour on line, enjoy the place. There’s slideshows on their website that range from scenes of the carpenters shop, fabric and hat shops, the black smith and carriage shop, and more of these wreaths and decorations. And consider saving and drying some of your own summer garden produce and flowers in the future to make your own Colonial Era memories. Cocoa wasn’t a thing then as it is now. Rather it was an unsweetened, bitter, very strong chocolate beverage often used to put children sound to sleep. Warm cider, however, with cinnamon is as good now as then. Yum.
I’m not sure King George III would have said this, but I will:
Be Well, Do Good.