September 12, 2005
CW's 71st Grand Illumination will be a night to remember as 18th-century entertainment and fireworks leave an unforgettable impression
Colonial Williamsburg’s 2005 holiday kick-off extravaganza, the Grand Illumination, is closer than you think. So start planning now to join tens of thousands of revelers in Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Area for this one-of-a-kind celebration on Sunday, Dec. 4.
The day begins in the late afternoon with a variety of entertainment that starts at 4:45 p.m. on multiple outdoor stages. The Colonial Williamsburg Fifes and Drums provide 18th-century music appropriate to the season while balladeers and musicians perform popular music of the time. Other costumed performers present holiday entertainment found in Williamsburg two centuries ago and church choirs and other community organizations sing Christmas carols.
At 6 p.m. the Fifes and Drums signal the beginning of the Grand Illumination. At 6:15 p.m., candles are lit in public buildings, shops and homes, and fireworks are launched at three Historic Area locations; the Governor’s Palace, Magazine and Capitol. After the fireworks, entertainment resumes on the outdoor stages and continues until 7:30 p.m.
Illuminations were commonly used during the 18th century to celebrate major events such as great military victories, the birthday of the monarch, arrival of a new colonial governor and the like -- by firing guns into the air and lighting fireworks. Written accounts of illuminations in Williamsburg, the 18th-century capital of Virginia, before the American Revolution, include descriptions of “candles in the cupolas of public buildings and windows of gentlemen’s houses.” Colonial Williamsburg adapted the traditional practice to celebrate the advent of the season that, in the Christmas tradition, celebrates the birth of the King of Kings.
Lorraine C. Brooks