Sunday, September 24, 2023

Grand Illumination Returns to Historic Area for Three Evenings this December

The Grand Illumination on Palace Green in 2015. (Image courtesy of The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation)

WILLIAMSBURG — Grand Illumination returns to Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Area for three consecutive Saturdays in December as part of a series of holiday programming, The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation announced Thursday.

This expanded schedule, which debuted last year, replaces the one-night event that had been the tradition prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, it said. The series is free and open to the public.

“Grand Illumination has been a Colonial Williamsburg institution for more than 85 years, and we are grateful to our community and to our guests for the privilege of playing a significant role in their holiday celebrations for generations,” said Cliff Fleet, president and CEO of The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. “Last year’s expansion of Grand Illumination to three nights was incredibly well received by our community, and Colonial Williamsburg, in partnership with the City of Williamsburg, is delighted to reprise the expanded schedule this year.”

Each evening of the series will include seasonal music, the lighting of the cressets, storytelling on Palace Green, a special appearance by Father Christmas, and a procession led by the Colonial Williamsburg Fifes & Drums culminating in fireworks demonstrations in the Historic Area over the Governor’s Palace and the Capitol, according to the press release.

“There’s really no better way to top off a day spent celebrating the holiday season than with the Grand Illumination fireworks,” Williamsburg Mayor Douglas Pons said. “Year after year, we are thrilled to welcome people from near and far to Williamsburg for this spectacular event.”

According to The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, additional holiday programming that is free and open to the public will include:

  • Lighting of the Cressets, Nov. 25-26, Dec. 23-24 — Lit cressets (metal baskets of wood mounted from poles and used as an early form of street lighting) will illuminate historic Duke of Gloucester Street as musicians stroll the city. 6-9 p.m.
  • Community Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony, Dec. 1 — Located in the heart of the Historic Area across from the Courthouse, the 40-foot community Christmas tree will be illuminated with over 7,500 lights. This annual event, co-sponsored by the Kiwanis Club of Williamsburg, includes Christmas caroling, a reading of “The Night Before Christmas,” and an appearance by Father Christmas. 5-5:30 p.m.
  • Intersections, Dec. 1-3, 8-10, 15-17, 22-24, and 29-31 — Costumed historic interpreters will bring the streets of the Historic Area to life with this free street theater program in front of the Raleigh Tavern in which residents of Williamsburg prepare for an 18th-century holiday ball. 10-10:25 a.m.
  • Celebration of the Yule Log, Dec. 2, 9 and 16 — The Yule log will be hauled by a wagon from Capitol Circle to Market Square where it will be added to a bonfire accompanied by holiday music, festivities, and the lighting of the cressets. 6-8 p.m.

Grand Illumination will take place Dec. 3, 10 and 17 from 5-7:30 p.m. For a complete list of Grand Illumination FAQs visit

Holiday festivities will continue daily throughout the season in Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Area, Merchants Square and at the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg, with Colonial Williamsburg historic sites open daily to ticketed guests from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg will be open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. with extended hours and special programming from 6-9 p.m. every Wednesday of the holiday season beginning Nov. 30.

Those seeking more information on ticketed holiday programming and dining experiences should explore the Colonial Williamsburg Holiday Planner. To purchase tickets and find up-to-date event information, visit and follow Colonial Williamsburg on Facebook and @colonialwmsburg on Twitter and Instagram.

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