Colonial Williamsburg at Christmas

Recently, my friend, Mary, visited Colonial Williamsburg.  While there she took photos of some of the wonderful outdoor Christmas decorations she saw on Duke of Gloucester Street, which is the main road through Colonial Williamsburg.  I have never been there during the Christmas season, but I do so want to go.  Have you ever been at Christmastime?

Mary said, “The arrangements go up right after Thanksgiving and remain up to January 6th.  Most of the arrangements are hand made by the employees of Williamsburg, Va. and some arrangements, the employees who are lucky to rent these colonial homes make their own arrangements. Employees who rent are allowed to hire a florist to make their arrangement but everything has to ALL natural, and only items that would have been in Virginia in the 1700’s can be part of the arrangement. All of the arrangements are judged by the category-professionally made, hand made by an amateur, made by Williamsburg employee in the floral department. The arrangements are checked daily for anything that might have wilted. The pine roping is changed every 2 weeks.”

No wonder all the arrangements are so beautiful!

Come along and help me name the elements used in creating these amazing displays.  I’ve numbered the pictures for easy reference.


Colonial Williamsburg Decorated for Christmas

2. This appears to be dried flowers with perhaps burlap interwoven throughout.  I know I should know the names of the flowers…they look so familiar.  Want to take a stab at it?  The purple and pink are globe amaranth, I think.

Colonial Williamsburg Decorated for Christmas

3.  I see pomegranates, pine cones and more dried flowers.  Ummm, what are the long, skinny stalks?

Colonial Williamsburg Decorated for Christmas

4. So symmetrical!  I wonder how long these arrangements lasted?  Since they are outdoors in the cool temps, maybe they lasted for several weeks.

Colonial Williamsburg Decorated for Christmas

5. I LOVE this! I think those apples are called “Lady Apples.” I cheated and looked in one of my Colonial Williamsburg books for that info.  The book I have is called, “Williamsburg Christmas” written by Libbey Hodges Oliver and Mary Miley Theobald.

Colonial Williamsburg Decorated for Christmas

6. More Lady Apples in this wreath.  Looks like dried yarrow, pine cones and maybe holly berries.  I used to have a pretty yellow yarrow growing in my perennial garden.

Colonial Williamsburg Decorated for Christmas

7. Love how the large wreaths coordinates with the smaller door wreaths.

Colonial Williamsburg Decorated for Christmas

8. Now would you ever think to use carrots in your holiday décor?  Update:  Wow, you guys are good!  I’m learning a lot in the comments.  Apparently, this building is horse related, hence the carrots and the following picture showing apples on stirrups.  The thing on the door is called a Hames per Wendy, Mary’s sister.  It’s part of a horse collar or yoke.   I know you horsey folks are laughing.  I know nothing about horses.   The decorations are making more sense though, aren’t they? 🙂

Colonial Williamsburg Decorated for Christmas

9. I love the mossy looking stuff on the roof.

Colonial Williamsburg Decorated for Christmas

10. I wonder what the brown things are at the top of this arrangement?  Anyone know?  The shape makes me think of a turkey.

Colonial Williamsburg Decorated for Christmas

11. Who knew brown and green could make such a beautiful wreath.  This wouldn’t be hard to duplicate, although where do you get seed pods that color?  Ummm…

Colonial Williamsburg Decorated for Christmas


Colonial Williamsburg Decorated for Christmas

Close up of #12.  I see cinnamon, maybe oranges, although they look pretty small for oranges.  Do you think the purple flowers are lavender?  I don’t think those are oranges—they sort of have ridges.  So what are those orange things?  Any ideas?

Colonial Williamsburg Decorated for Christmas

13. Beautiful!  Dried flowers and lemons are a part of this wreath.  I think the white things are dried okra…something else I gleaned from my Colonial Williamsburg book.  It must be so much fun to work here and to make all these arrangements!

Colonial Williamsburg Decorated for Christmas

14. Okay, I think I can name almost everything in this arrangement.  I see pine,  antlers, pheasant feathers and cotton.  Wonder what kind of berries they used.  They don’t look like nandina, holly or pyracantha berries.  Those are all common here in Georgia.  What do you think?  Would you ever think to use cotton in your Christmas decorations?   Neat, huh?

Colonial Williamsburg Decorated for Christmas

15.  What do you see?  Looks like magnolia and could that be dried corn stalks mixed in with the magnolia leaves?  Are those clove studded apples?  I’m used to seeing oranges with cloves, but not apples. I wonder what the little figures are made from?  Perhaps dried corn stalks?
Isn’t it amazing they were able to take everyday plants and fruits and make beautiful decorations.  Of course, pineapple would have been a special treat back in Colonial times.  You see pineapple used in a lot of arrangements over doorways because it symbolized hospitality.

Colonial Williamsburg Decorated for Christmas


Colonial Williamsburg Decorated for Christmas

17. Symmetry plays a big part in decorating in Colonial Williamsburg.  You see it in the individual arrangements and also in how they were displayed outside home and businesses.

Colonial Williamsburg Decorated for Christmas

18. This must the the Silversmith.  Looks like yarrow and shells were used in this pretty wreath.  What else?  Maybe dried lemon? What are the silver things?  Are they cups?  Or, maybe that’s pewter.

Colonial Williamsburg Decorated for Christmas

Hope you enjoyed this little tour highlighting a few of the Christmas decorations in Colonial Williamsburg.  Mary, thanks so much for sharing your wonderful pictures!  I’m really yearning to go for a visit during Christmastime now!

See you tonight for Tablescape Thursday.

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  1. I've always been fond of the Williamsburg decorations for Christmas. Thanks for sharing.

  2. ♥ Sonny ♥ says

    what a wonderful post. I loved seeing every homes exterior.
    I hope when I retire I can go there one Christmas and see it all for myself. Simply stunninng and I agree what fun it would be to help make all those arrangements.

    Merry Christmas

  3. Thanks for posting these wonderful photos! Williamsburg has such simple elegance year-round, but it look stunning decked out for the holidays. The incorporation of so many different natural elements creates a stunning array of wreaths and garland. Beautiful!

  4. #10 – that is indeed the whole turkey fan. And I think someone exercised a little artistic license with those green seed pods. These are beautiful decorations.

  5. We love Colonial Williamsburg and live 45 minutes from Duke of Gloucester Street. The Christmas decorations are beautiful, it's so much fun to stroll down the street enjoying the beauty … then pause to buy steaming hot apple cider and warm your hands over the open fire … then take the horse-drawn carriage ride. If you stay into the evening, you can watch the amazing fife and drum corps march down the street, pausing for the lighting of the street lamps. Before we had children, we dined in the Taverns, enjoying amazing food along with the strolling minstrel. All perfectly old-fashioned magical. Hope you can come to Virginia one December and enjoy the magic.


  6. I think the long stalks in # 3 are Love Lies Bleeding seed heads and in # 12, it looks like clove-studded oranges and on the ends of that are wheat stalks (or some type of grain like wheat) and I think the flat leaves are bay leaf

    thanks for sharing all these lovely photos!

  7. I've never been to Williamsburg, but I love the style! Thanks for the tour (and please thank your friend!) – the photos are beautiful!

  8. miss flibbertigibbet says

    Very Colonial…they always do a lovely job! We live about an hour away from Williamsburg and one of the prettiest things is the Grand Illumination that takes place in early December. When it snows there you feel like you're living in Little Women!


  10. Robin@DecoratingTennisGirl says

    I love every thing colonial! I try to have some colonial throughout my home. These pics are wonderful!

  11. Mary Peterson says

    I think those turkey looking things holding the apples are stirrups ! How cool! These are just beautiful decorations; thanks for sharing!

  12. Sweet Designs says

    Love the photos, I only live about a half hour away and I go every year to see the decorations, if you can go it is really worth the trip.

  13. Susan (Between Naps on the Porch) says

    Wendy, really??? That's not just some kind of plant or woven stuff? Oh. My. Gosh. I thought that was some kind of woven stuff–like ratan or wicker, with feathers on the end…it looks sort of woven.
    Mary I would love to live so close. It's sound magical!

  14. Susan (Between Naps on the Porch) says

    Miss f, I would love to see the Grand Illumination–sounds wonderful!

  15. Susan (Between Naps on the Porch) says

    Mary P…what are stirrups? Are those the things you put your feet in when riding a horse? 🙂

  16. Pour l'amour de la vie says

    These photos are just wonderful. I have spent my entire life traveling to Williamsburg at many different times of the year but Christmas is the best. And as it turns out one of my dear friends from High School does a lot of the floral designs for Colonial Williamsbug. She has such a beautiful gift!!! I am sure she has created several of these!!! Thanks for the post

  17. Susan,
    #9 the house with the mossy roof with the bay window does have real riding stirrups holding apples.

    #10 house, is what Wendy said, the turkey fan. The pods have some type of moss on them. Not sure how they made that work-but it sure was pretty!

    From Virginia

  18. Susan (Between Naps on the Porch) says

    Oh, now I see it…those are stirrups! How cool is that! Well, I'm glad I'm not a turkey!

  19. Susan,
    LOL, I think folks are getting the numbers and the comments that went with the pictures mixed up.

    Photo #9 has a bay window-with stirrups holding apples; nothing that looks like a turkey.

    Photo #10 which is RIGHT BELOW the stirrup picture is the green and brown swag with the the brown turkey fan at the top of the swag.

    From Virginia

  20. I am pretty sure they applied green sheet moss to the pods to make them green. The dolls in photo 15 are corn husk dolls.

  21. Susan (Between Naps on the Porch) says

    Suzan, I thought those might be made from corn husks. Love it!

  22. Susan (Between Naps on the Porch) says

    Mary, yep, I know which one you meant about the stirrups and which was the turkey feathers. You can really see those are shiny stirrups now that I know what those are. 🙂

  23. We lived in Virginia from 2003-2007 and although we visited Colonial Williamsburg many times, we never made it during the holidays. We are moving back to Virginia next year and we WILL be visiting next Christmas!

  24. Maya @ Completely Coastal says

    These wreaths are absolutely stunning!! And of course I'm especially loving the shell wreath.

  25. I love historical destinations~~Williamsburg is wonderful:)

    The wreaths are stunning!

    Thank you for sharing,
    Kay Ellen

  26. Sue (Someone's Mom) says

    Thank you for sharing this! I have always wanted to go and this is one place we haven't been at Christmas or at any time! It is on the list of must do someday! The decorations are just as amazing as I assumed they would be…loved it!

  27. Pictures 8 and 9 are of the same house. See how the stirrups make sense with the wreath made from horse hames? Now the carrots make sense too.

  28. Susan At Glen Oaks Primitives says

    When I saw the title to this post I KNEW I was going to flip out!
    My trip to Williamsburg 18 years ago is still fresh in my memory and I have any book I can get my hands on.
    I am going through your photos again and again. I just have to keep looking and looking. I'm also linking up to my post later today.
    Merry Christmas and Thank You!

  29. Susan (Between Naps on the Porch) says

    Susan, I so know what you mean. I'd much rather go to Williamsburg on vaca than the beach or skiing. lol Those were always my fave vacations.

  30. Susan (Between Naps on the Porch) says

    Oh Wendy, you're right. It all makes sense now…the stirrups, carrots and apples…and the arrangement is inside something that looks horse related…have no idea what you call that. Maybe this building was where horsey supplies and such were made/purchased.

  31. Helen's Decor says

    Susan, I haven't read all the other comments to know if anyone has recommended the tour. We have been 2 or 3 times, and I have to say, I do not recommend going in May…those old houses are a/c. They are lovely and the guides are great. We attended a concert on one trip and loved it. We went the weekend after T'giving last time and it was great and beautiful! We love it! If you like antiques and/or reproduction antiques, I highly recommend it.
    Merry Christmas, Helen

  32. Susan, I think the last picture is from Chowning's Tavern. The shells on the wreath make sense – seafood is served at the taverns.

  33. Susan (Between Naps on the Porch) says

    Regina…that makes sense. Thanks! Love how they have themed the decorations to go with the different buildings.

  34. Lynn@ The Vintage Nest says

    I live in Va. and have been many many times and a lot of my school friends went to Wm. & Mary. It truly is so beautiful at Christmas time. That is why I always have just a fresh wreath at Christmas….no artificial until you get in my house. Trees are fake. LOL…I do so hope you get to go one year.

  35. Hi Susan, The #14 picture – the berries may be from a deciduous holly bush. My neighbor has one and all the leaves fall off and all that's left are the berries, like what's pictured.

    ~ Chris

  36. My daughter and I are headed there tomorrow…looking forward to seeing all the decorations.

    ~ Chris (neighbor to Mary from Virginia)

  37. Lovely tour of beautiful colonial homes, I am visiting your blog via Susan @ Glen Oaks. I have a brother that lives about 45 minutes from Williamsburg, but I've never been at Christmas time.

    I have a bit of a florist background so I'm going to help with identifying some of the naturals~

    #3 – long skinny drieds is a type of millet
    #16- I believe the vine is Bittersweet
    #11 along with the green pods is Rye (resembles wheat)
    I see lots of dried Strawflowers and Salal (lemon leaf) in many of arrangements…
    Happy Holidays and Thank you for sharing,

  38. I finally got to see Williamsburg and loved it. I wondered how it would look for Christmas. Thanks for sharing, Susan.

  39. Here is the link to CW and the holiday season. Check out all the events and offerings for this year. Look under the pictures to the right of the text and click on the box entitled "Holiday Decorating" to view the video about the decorating process and maintenance tasks carried out through the season!!


  40. Historic Williamsburg is one of my favorite places. How wonderful to see it all decked out with wreaths and Christmas wonderfulness. Your pictures are beautiful – great camera and eye! ~CJ

  41. Susan (Between Naps on the Porch) says

    Traci, thanks for identifying all those! So good to know what they used.

  42. Susan (Between Naps on the Porch) says

    Thanks, Chris! Have fun…wish I was going!

  43. Mid-Atlantic Martha says

    We're less than an hour from Williamsburg. We've been many times to see the decorations at Christmas….it is a most beautiful time to visit. I hope that you get a chance to come one year….looks like many of us could just meet you there!

  44. Susan (Between Naps on the Porch) says

    Martha, we have to plan this for next year! Can you just imagine how much fun we would have! 🙂

  45. Susan, I know you would love Williamsburg. We have a new tradition in our family to go down to Williamsburg for Grand Illumination which takes place the first Sunday in December. I saw most of the decorations that you posted and they were just lovely. Add dinner at a colonial tavern, lanterns, burning elevated baskets called Cressets, fife and drum music, and fireworks to the night and it is just magical. In 2009 my now son-in-law proposed to my daughter on the Crim Dell Bridge on William and Mary's campus just a few hours before Grand Illumination. Not every young woman gets a fireworks display to mark her engagement! And, thanks to his thoughtful planning, we now return each year to enjoy the event and celebrate with them such a special memory. MM

  46. Shari@Rain into Rainbows says

    We missed Grand Illumination again this year (I just wasn't feeling up to it) but now that I've looked at the photos, I'm thinking that perhaps we'll venture over this weekend. Hopefully then the crowds won't be quite so bad….

    Thanks for the reminder!

  47. Susan,

    I think the berries you were wondering about are from winterberry holly.

  48. Susan, I love this post. Thanks so much for sharing. I would love to go to Colonial Williamsburg any time but especially during Christmas.

  49. How beautiful! I have always wanted to visit Colonial Williamsburg. Thank you for sharing with us 🙂

  50. I enjoyed viewing your photos of Colonial Williamsburg. We had the opportunity to spend a few days there this past summer and has always been one of my favorite places to visit. Thanks for sharing:)

  51. Kathy in California says

    I found your blog when I googled “Colonial Williamsburg” to help get ready for teaching a class called “Williamsburg Designs”. Great pictures of Williamsburg at Christmas! My friend Jo and I teach a class each year on making Williamsburg-style wreaths, swags, plaques, apple fans, etc. Once I found your site a few weeks ago, I’ve been back almost every day to see what new thing you’ve added and to go back and look at past postings. I love your house! I love your style! I love the way you put things together! You are so talented and creative – so why don’t you live in the San Francisco Bay area so I can stop by and meet you in person?

    • Kathy, so glad you found BNOTP. Thanks so much for those kind words! San Fran is a ways from Atlanta, isn’t it…sorry about that. 😉 Not sure if you already found these posts, I make a Colonial Williamsburg style apple tree for my Christmas table each year. Here are a couple of tablescape posts showing it from previous years: AND Here’s a tutorial for making the centerpiece:
      Great meeting you! Thanks so much for your comment…it made my day!

  52. Beautiful! We only live about 25 minutes away and love Williamsburg…all year long! But especially beautiful during the Holidays!

  53. Terri Burfield says

    I enjoyed the photos and the turkey thingy I believe are real turkey tail feathers. My brother hunts turkey and he has several of these tail feather sprays displayed on his walls.

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