Colonial Williamsburg® The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation's Official History and Citizenship Website

Page content
Reset text sizeResize text larger

December 6, 2011

Join in the Holiday Merriment with Illuminations and Caroling in Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Area

Colonial Williamsburg’s guests can get into the holiday spirit and enjoy illuminations throughout the Historic Area. These illuminations feature stories, flickering cressets – baskets mounted on a pole in which fat wood is set on fire to create light – musket fire and the Colonial Williamsburg Fifes and Drums.

Illuminations were commonly used in the 18th century to celebrate special events such as major military victories, the birthday of the monarch or the arrival of a new colonial governor by firing guns and setting off fireworks. Written accounts of illuminations in Williamsburg before the American Revolution include descriptions of “candles in the cupolas of public buildings and in the windows of gentlemen’s houses.”

Families are invited to enjoy these festive illuminations in the Historic Area:

  • Illumination of Palace Green. 5:30 p.m. in front of the George Wythe House on Saturdays, Dec. 10, 17 and 31.
  • Illumination of the Capitol. 5:30 p.m. on the Capitol Green on Sundays, Dec. 11 and 18.
  • Illumination of Market Square. 5:30 p.m. at the Magazine on Tuesdays, Dec. 13. 20 and 27.
  • Illumination of the Taverns. 5:30 p.m. in front of the Prentis Store on Thursdays, Dec. 15, 22 and 29.

    Colonial Williamsburg’s guests also can take part in the holiday tradition of caroling. Families are invited to join in and sing songs of the holiday season throughout the Historic Area:

  • Caroling at the Courthouse — 6 p.m. Dec. 9, 16, 21 and 23.
  • Caroling at Wetherburn’s Tavern — 6 p.m. Dec. 15, 18 and 22.
  • Caroling at the Robert Carter House — 6 p.m. Dec. 17.

    At 5 p.m. on Christmas Eve, Saturday, Dec. 24 on Market Square, guests can experience the firing of the Christmas guns. During the 18th century, it was customary for guns to be fired in salute to the holiday season and as an expression of joy and celebration.

    There is no admission ticket required to attend these events.

    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. 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

  • Footer