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Christmas in Williamsburg, VA: Then and Now

xmas1Christmas today is not quite the same it was over a couple centuries ago. Of course there were the traditional visits to church, family dinners and gatherings around the fire place. However, trips to the mall to ask Santa for the latest high tech gadgets and tasks of sending out Christmas e-cards were completely unheard of. It is clear that times have changed drastically since the old days on how we celebrate this holiday. Join us as we take a ride in a time machine back 200 years to experience what Christmas in Colonial Williamsburg was like:

Presents: Children were happy to receive little books and sweet candy as their presents. As an old tradition, parents would place fruit and candy in their kid’s shoes. Imagine kids faces today if this was all they received! Gift giving also only went in one direction, as children did not give gifts to their superiors.

Decorations: Decorations for the holidays didn’t mean competing with your neighbors by placing a 20-foot Santa Claus on your roof, 12 reindeer in your front lawn, and an electric bill higher than your entire mortgage! Decorations consisted of simple evergreens, berries and blossoms that were found. Started in the late 1800’s, it was tradition to place candles in windows during the time between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. These days, downtown Williamsburg carries on this tradition. During The Grand Illumination event, the entire historic downtown area is illuminated with candles at the same time, which creates a breathtaking site you don’t want to miss.

Food and Drink: One thing that stayed the same over the years is the love to sit back, relax, and enjoy a nice cocktail. Wines, brandy, rum punches and other alcoholic beverages were enjoyed by all. Slaves were even given little bottles of rum as presents in hopes to convince them to stay close to the home front during this holiday time. As for food, there were no holiday parties tempting you with every delicious holiday cookie you could imagine. Since most Virginians were members of the Anglican Church, Christmas time was a time of fasting up until the actual Christmas Day meal.

Timeline: These days, it seems as if when November 1st rolls around, we are already getting bombarded with Christmas catalogs, Christmas newsletters, and everything else you can imagine to convince you to spend a buck! There is a lot of anticipation built up during the time period before Christmas comes. However, in the olden days, people from the eighteenth century saw Christmas Day itself as the first day of festivities. Colonial Virginians considered the twelve days after December 25th the time to enjoy and celebrate the most.

No matter what year you’re in, Christmas time will always be a warm time to celebrate and enjoy the most joyful season of the year with friends and family. Regardless of how traditions have changed throughout the years, nothing can quite compare to the sights, smells and sounds of the Christmas season in Colonial Williamsburg today. Take a break from the typical commotion, and travel back in time to Colonial Christmas in Williamsburg, VA this upcoming holiday. And while you’re there, relax at File & Drum Inn, a cozy, warm and inviting bed and breakfast located in the heart of downtown Williamsburg.