As pandemic restrictions have eased and special events and gatherings have gradually started to return, Colonial Williamsburg has come up with a creative approach to its popular annual holiday celebrations, opting to extend its Grand Illumination—typically a one-weekend event jammed packed with thousands of revelers from Merchant’s Square to the Colonial Capitol—to three consecutive weekends.
The idea is to give visitors more options to celebrate and be together outdoors while reducing the overall number of people in the same place at the same time. “We have much to be grateful for in 2021,” noted Cliff Fleet, president and CEO of The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, in a recent press release. “The pandemic is finally releasing its grip on our community and life is starting to return to normal. This holiday season, we invite guests to gather and reflect on our friendships and living in such a welcoming community.”
And nobody does the holidays quite like Colonial Williamsburg. Bonfires and fireworks over the Governor’s Palace. Fife and drum performances, carolers and strolling musicians. Stunning handcrafted wreaths and décor from door to door. Hot cider and ginger cakes at Raleigh Tavern Bakery. This is classic 18th century Christmas unplugged.
Here are just few of the many events happening in Colonial Williamsburg this holiday season—from decorating workshops to small concerts, tours and tea times to dinners, kids’ activities and much more. For the most updated schedule and ticket information (if applicable—many events are free to the general public or included with daily admission or an annual membership pass), visit ColonialWilliamsburg.org.
Holidays in Colonial Williamsburg
Grand Illumination Weekends
December 3-5, 10-12, & 17-19
Festivities begin each Friday night with the Lighting of the Cressets, 18th century entertainments on Duke of Gloucester Street and a Celebration of the Yule Log, a holiday procession beginning at the Capitol and ending at the Magazine. Saturday evenings will include a dramatic presentation of an original holiday story, glorious music, and a joyful appearance by Father Christmas, culminating in simultaneous Grand Illumination fireworks over the Governor’s Palace and the Capitol from 5-7 p.m.
Williamsburg Inn Annual Tree Lighting Ceremony
Kick off the holidays with this annual event exclusively for Colonial Williamsburg Resorts guests. Grab the family and a cozy scarf to snap postcard perfect photos and witness the illumination of thousands of dazzling lights at the Inn. Festivities begin at 5 p.m.
Merchants Square Annual Tree Lighting Ceremony
The 5th annual Tree Lighting Ceremony in Merchants Square will take place the Friday after Thanksgiving from 5:30-8:30 p.m. Enjoy the sights of the live tree on the Duke of Gloucester Street in front of Danforth Pewter.
Christmas Decorations Walking Tour
Enjoy a guided look at Colonial Williamsburg’s picturesque building exteriors and streets decked out in holiday splendor. Discuss the materials and construction techniques of these traditional holiday decorations on one of these daily tours. Times vary.
The Magic of Christmas
This exciting new holiday show, taking place on Wednesday evenings in Hennage Auditorium, features mesmerizing magic by renowned stage magician William the Conjuror and a live band of strings, brass, reeds, and drums providing the sounds of the season.
A Celebration of the Yule Log
Join the Williamsburg community as the Yule log is hauled by wagon from the Capitol to Market Square in a celebration of the season accompanied by music. Guests can make a wish and toss a sprig of greenery into the bonfire. Friday evenings only from 6-8 p.m.
A Community Celebration of Music and Song
Each Saturday evening, highlighted ensembles from the Williamsburg community will fill the air with seasonal music throughout the Historic Area.
Historic Area Illumination Ceremonies
Duke of Gloucester Street began in 1934 during the Colonial Williamsburg restoration. This timeless tradition continues with three simultaneous Saturday ceremonies, beginning at 5:15 p.m. at the Raleigh Tavern, George Wythe House and Randolph House.