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November 16, 2011

A New Grand Illumination for a New Era as Guests Experience 18th-century Lighting Traditions in a 21st-century Style, Sunday, Dec. 4

Illuminations — the firing of guns into the air and lighting fireworks —were commonly used during the 18th century to celebrate major events. These old traditions and new experiences usher in a new era for the Colonial Williamsburg at Grand Illumination, on Sunday, Dec. 4, through expanded hours, and more immersive celebrations to herald the start of the 2011 holiday season.

The tradition of Grand Illumination originated in 1934 with a “White Lighting.” The first re-creation of an 18th-century Christmas in Williamsburg featured single candles in the windows of the Historic Area’s restored and reconstructed buildings, as well as garlands and greens on the outside of the buildings.

The celebration begins at 5 p.m. when candles are lit in the windows of public buildings, shops and homes. At 5:15 p.m., live entertainment begins on outdoor stages at Palace Green, Market Square, the Gaol and Capitol building, and includes “A Christmas Tale,” performed by Colonial Williamsburg’s theatrical interpreters, Greater Richmond Pipes and Drums, violinist Jenny Edenborn, Botetourt Singers, Public Times Chorus, Hilton Brass, balladeers and Colonial Williamsburg’s Fifes and Drums.

Then, for the first time, the public can participate in the lighting ceremony at 6:35 p.m. when thousands of guests will be invited to activate glow sticks simultaneously to illuminate the town.

Following the lighting ceremony, Colonial Williamsburg’s Fifes and Drums play Grand Tattoo to signal the beginning of Colonial Williamsburg’s holiday season.

At a new time of 7 p.m., fireworks fill the sky over the Historic Area from four locations: the Governor’s Palace, Market Square, and the north and south sides of the Capitol building.

At 7:30 p.m. the Fifes and Drums march down Duke of Gloucester Street, and guests are invited to join in.

Through social networking, Colonial Williamsburg invites everyone to share their photos and video of this beautiful ceremony, as well as their dining, music and weekend fun, online and in real time at, and

Colonial Williamsburg Ambassadors, wearing special badges, will be available to assist guests, making it easier for guests to get the most out of their holiday experience. The Ambassadors will be stationed in the Historic Area, Visitor Center and other high traffic areas to hand out broadsides, answer questions, and guide and direct guests.

For the comfort and convenience of guests, more market stands will be available in various locations in the Historic Area. Stands are located at the McKenzie Apothecary, Chowning’s Tavern, Market Square Outdoor Sales, Market Square west side, Prentis Store pasture, Raleigh Tavern Bakery, Shields Tavern storehouse, behind the Kings Arms Tavern, on the southeast side of the Capitol near the Joiner Shop and Visitor Center. Hot cider, cookies, glow sticks, Illumination Kits, sweatshirts, T-shirts and other souvenirs will be available for purchase to complete the 2011 Grand Illumination experience.

Glow sticks will be available for purchase at market stands individually and as part of the 2011 Illumination Kit. Available for the first time, this $30 kit includes two 2012 refillable mugs, a warm blanket and two glow sticks for the lighting ceremony.

For more information, visit

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, 20th and 21st 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:
Penna Rogers
(757) 220-7121