Jamestown and Yorktown Celebrate ‘A Colonial Christmas’

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In the Yorktown Victory Center's 1780s farmhouse, a historical interpreter decorates a holiday table. (Courtesy Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation)
In the Yorktown Victory Center’s 1780s farmhouse, a historical interpreter decorates a holiday table. (Courtesy Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation)

Jamestown Settlement and Yorktown Victory Center are celebrating the holidays in 17th- and 18th-century style with “A Colonial Christmas.”

This monthlong event, which began Dec. 1 and runs through Jan. 3, will explore colonial holiday traditions and customs through special interpretive programs and live musical entertainment.

At Jamestown, visitors can check out a special holiday film and programs that explore how English Christmas customs were adapted during the challenging early years of the settlement.

While Christmas in England included a full 12 days of fun and feasting, it is unlikely that Jamestown settlers had the luxury of such an extravagant holiday. This program aims to illuminate what the colonists might have done instead to celebrate the spirit of the season.

In addition to focusing on the prevalence of English customs in the colony, “A Jamestown Christmas” will also explore the role that Powhatan Indian hospitality played in helping settlers survive in harsh winter conditions and the experience of the settlers at sea during Christmas of 1606.

In addition to the programs taking place throughout the month, a special event at which guests can also experience riddles and revelry from the Lord of Misrule at the fort will take place through Dec. 31. The Lord of Misrule tradition is based on an old English custom that saw one man elevated to the status of “grand captain of all mischief” for the Christmas season, according to a recent press release.

In Jamestown Settlement’s re-created fort church, visitors can enjoy a variety of 17th-century holiday music and dancing daily at 11:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. from Dec. 26 through 31. Fiddler David Gardner, Barry and Lynn Trott and Rebecca Suerdieck will all be performing lively and festive period Christmas music that is sure to delight visitors to the settlement on those days.

Yorktown Victory Center also has its fair share of holiday fun to offer up this Christmas season. Visitors can hear accounts of Revolutionary-era Christmases spent in the military encampments and take part in hands-on preparations, such as assisting the quartermaster in preparing military supplies or observing artillery demonstrations.

The Victory Center will also be celebrating the season at the museum’s period farmhouse, where guests can experience what Christmas would have been like on an 18th-century farm. Visitors can take part in holiday activities like setting the table for the holiday feast, dipping candles and watching a cooking demonstration over the open-hearth.

Admission to Jamestown Settlement and Yorktown Victory Center is free for residents of the City of Williamsburg, James City County and York County.

Christmas-themed private tours are available for an additional fee with advance reservations for a party of 14 or fewer people. Reservations can be made by calling 253-4939.