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November 1, 2011

New Christmas Books Brighten the Season

Just in time for gift-giving, two new books from Colonial Williamsburg are sure to make the season merry and bright. “The Art-full Tree: Ornaments to Make Inspired by the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum” features 143 pages of illustrations, patterns, photographs of the original art, materials list and clearly written instructions – so even novices can create folk art of their own to decorate the family Christmas tree. “Christmas in Williamsburg: 300 Years of Family Traditions” focuses on 300 years of Christmas traditions. Published by Colonial Williamsburg and the National Geographic Society, the book provides a lens through which readers can view the history of the Christmas holiday in America.

Co-authors of “The Art-full Tree” are Jan Gilliam, manager of exhibit planning and associate curator of toys for Colonial Williamsburg, and Christina Westenberger, assistant manager of museum education.

“By definition folk artists usually had little or no training in fine arts practices and techniques, so their work tends to feature very personal use of line, color, form and decoration,” said Gilliam. “With that in mind, there is no perfect way for a folk art piece to look, which should give confidence to those who want to try their hand at creating ornaments inspired by the objects in the museum.”

“As we worked on this project, we were excited to see art we admired translated into a new form of art,” said Westenberger. “We came to appreciate the original art even more as we took inspiration from it.”

Abby Aldrich Rockefeller started collecting folk art in the 1920s and loaned her collection to Colonial Williamsburg to display. In 1938, she gave her collection to Colonial Williamsburg. In 1957, nine years after her death, John D. Rockefeller Jr. provided the funds to build a museum in his wife’s memory. Her original collection forms the core of the museum’s collection, which now numbers more than 4,000 pieces. One of the museum’s traditions is the large Christmas tree in the museum atrium decorated with more than 1,000 handmade ornaments.

“Christmas in Williamsburg: 300 Years of Family Traditions”

Published by Colonial Williamsburg and the National Geographic Society, the book provides a lens through which readers can view the history of the Christmas holiday in America.

“Christmas in Williamsburg” traces the evolution of the holiday from the 1600s, when colonists brought with them some English Yuletide traditions, and follows the holiday through the 1700s as colonists adapted their traditions to the New World, to the 19th century, when many of our current traditions have their roots. The book introduces readers to the restoration of Williamsburg during the 1930s, when colonial customs were combined with new ones such as decorating imaginative wreaths and the introduction of Colonial Williamsburg’s Grand Illumination to holiday celebrations of today.

The book also features recipes and crafts especially suitable for kids – from paper chains to pomanders – and tips on how to adapt Christmas traditions for today’s families.

The 64-page book was written by K.M Kostyal, author of “1776: A New Look at Colonial Williamsburg.” The photographs by National Geographic and Colonial Williamsburg photographers include rich reenactment scenes that capture Christmases of different eras.

Why does this book resonate and why should anyone want to capture the spirit of a Williamsburg Christmas for their own home? Colonial Williamsburg historian Emma Lou Powers concludes, “Perhaps Christmases of old seem purer, less materialistic and therefore more imbued with the Christmas spirit. Today’s Williamsburg Christmas evolved from the traditions of the past and succeeds in capturing a truly timeless spirit.”

“The Art-full Tree” is available for $16.95 and “Christmas in Williamsburg” for $17.95 from WILLIAMSBURG Booksellers in Colonial Williamsburg’s Visitor Center, 101 A Visitor Center Drive, Everything WILLIAMSBURG in Merchants Square, or by calling 1-800-446-9240 and online at

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is the not-for-profit educational and cultural organization dedicated to the preservation, interpretation and presentation of the restored 18th-century Revolutionary capital of Virginia. This town-sized living history museum tells the inspirational stories of our journey to become Americans through programs in the Historic Area and through the award-winning Revolutionary City program. Explore The Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg and discover the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum featuring the best in British and American decorative arts from 1670 – 1830 and the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum home to the nation’s premier collection of American folk art, comprising more than 5,000 folk art objects made during the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. Colonial Williamsburg is committed to expanding its thought-provoking programming through education outreach on-site and online. Purchase of Colonial Williamsburg products and services supports the preservation, research and educational programs of the Foundation. Philanthropic support by individuals, corporations, and foundations benefits the educational mission of The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

Williamsburg is located in Virginia’s Tidewater region, 20 minutes from Newport News, within an hour’s drive of Richmond and Norfolk, and 150 miles south of Washington, D.C. For more information about Colonial Williamsburg, call 1-800-HISTORY or visit Colonial Williamsburg’s website at

Media Contact:
Barbara Brown
(757) 220-7280