Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Colonial Williamsburg’s Christmas tree lighting ceremony moved from Christmas Eve

Colonial Williamsburg's annual tree lighting ceremony has moved to Dec. 21. (Courtesy Colonial Williamsburg)
Colonial Williamsburg’s annual tree lighting ceremony will be held prior to Christmas Eve for the first time since the tradition began in 1959. (Courtesy Colonial Williamsburg)

Colonial Williamsburg’s annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony will light up Market Square again this year, but with one change – the ceremony will not be on Christmas Eve.

Based on public feedback from previous years, Colonial Williamsburg has decided to change the date of the tree lighting ceremony to Dec. 21 – winter solstice – instead of Christmas Eve, according to Colonial Williamsburg spokeswoman Anna Cordle.

Cordle said guests and ceremony volunteers have both said the ceremony conflicted with other plans.

For some, having the ceremony on Christmas Eve meant having to choose between the tree lighting and other Christmas-related events.

The annual tree lighting has been scheduled on every Christmas Eve since it began in 1959. The event features a gathering around a 40-foot Norway spruce, a reading of “The Night Before Christmas,” candles, the Colonial Williamsburg Fifes and Drums and Christmas carols.

The lighting, which will be at 5 p.m. this year, is a collaboration between the Kiwanis Club of Williamsburg and Colonial Williamsburg, and is free.

“We invite residents and visitors alike to share in this Christmas celebration of fellowship, filled with beloved stories and songs, on a wondrous evening on Duke of Gloucester Street as we – and a bright, shining tree – all look forward to Christmas Day,” said Bill Schermerhorn, Colonial Williamsburg creative director for signature events.

While the tree lighting will be on winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, the date was not chosen because of the astronomical phenomenon.

Cordle said the new date allows visitors to enjoy the spruce tree’s 6,500 lights through the whole weekend leading up to Christmas, because the lighting is now on a Thursday.

Colonial Williamsburg is expecting between 500 and 1,000 attendees this year, and hopes the date change will bring in more guests, Cordle said.

Colonial Williamsburg's annual tree lighting ceremony has moved to Dec. 21. (Courtesy Colonial Williamsburg)
Colonial Williamsburg’s annual tree lighting ceremony has moved to Dec. 21. (Courtesy Colonial Williamsburg)

Williamsburg Mayor Paul Freiling will give “a few short remarks” and give the signal to turn on the tree’s lights and light the audience’s candles, Schermerhorn said.

Schermerhorn will share ceremony hosting duties with Mary Beth Murphy, the immediate past president of the Kiwanis Club. The two will serve as emcees and guide the ceremony.

This year’s Christmas carols will be sung by musician and Colonial Williamsburg interpreter Adrienne Lotto. Lotto is a vocalist with the Colonial Williamsburg early music ensemble, Governor’s Musick.

A “very special guest” will also appear in the Randolph Carriage during the ceremony, Schermerhorn said.

The Christmas guns at Colonial Williamsburg, which used to be fired at the tree lighting ceremony, will still be fired at 5 p.m. Christmas Eve, Cordle said.

With the expectation of up to 1,000 people, Cordle suggests visitors park at the Colonial Williamsburg Visitor Center, located at 101 Visitor Center Drive, to avoid parking issues.

Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing is the Assistant Editor at WYDaily. Sarah was born in the state of Maine, grew up along the coast, and attended college at the University of Maine at Orono. Sarah left Maine in October 2015 when she was offered a job at a newspaper in West Point, Va. Courts, crime, public safety and civil rights are among Sarah’s favorite topics to cover. She currently covers those topics in Williamsburg, James City County and York County. Sarah has been recognized by other news organizations, state agencies and civic groups for her coverage of a failing fire-rescue system, an aging agriculture industry and lack of oversight in horse rescue groups. In her free time, Sarah enjoys lazing around with her two cats, Salazar and Ruth, drinking copious amounts of coffee and driving places in her white truck.

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