Colonial Williamsburg ushers in the holiday season with an all-day celebration of Grand Illumination on Sunday, Dec. 2. Guests are invited to enjoy a mix of old and new traditions that begin early in the day and culminate with spectacular fireworks programs presently simultaneously at four sites throughout the Revolutionary City.
Guests are invited to begin their celebration with a one-hour guided Christmas Decoration Walking tour to learn about the traditions, materials and techniques that produce Colonial Williamsburg's signature holiday decorations. Four tours are offered through the day at $15 per person.
The excitement of an 18th-century-style auction is evident on the Market House stage at 11:30 a.m. Entertainments begin by early mid-afternoon as Colonial Williamsburg's Youth Dance Ensemble performs 2 – 4 p.m. on the stage at the Raleigh Tavern, while the Spirit Bells of Gum Spring Methodist Church perform on the Market Square stage near the Peyton Randolph House 2:30 – 4:30 p.m.
Market stands throughout the Revolutionary City offer refreshments — hot cider and cookies — and souvenirs. Guests may also purchase their Grand Illumination kits, including blankets, souvenir 2013 Colonial Williamsburg mugs and glowsticks at the refreshment stands.
Illuminations begin when candles are lit at 5 p.m. in the windows of public buildings, trades shops and residences throughout the Revolutionary City.
The evening entertainment gets into full swing at 5:15 p.m. on four stages located at the fireworks sites: Palace Green, Market Square and the north and south sides of the Capitol. Narrators introduce choirs and musicians playing period music.
At 6:30 p.m., guests are invited to participate in the second annual lighting of the glow sticks ceremony to begin the final countdown to the Grand Illumination fireworks program.
The Fifes and Drums take the stages at 6:40 p.m. to provide a prelude to a sky filled with the traditional fireworks of Grand Illumination at 7 p.m.
Guests then are invited to march with the Fifes and Drums from both the Palace Green and the Capitol, meeting at Botetourt Street.
The evening's festivities continue at 8 p.m. with A Grand Medley of Entertainments — a variety show where everything that can go wrong does — at the Kimball Theatre in Merchants Square. A ticket is required for this performance: $15 adults, $7.50 children.
Illuminations — the firing of guns into the air and lighting fireworks —were commonly used during the 18th century to celebrate major events. These old traditions and new experiences are part of a new era for Colonial Williamsburg at Grand Illumination on Sunday, Dec. 2, through expanded hours and more immersive celebrations to herald the start of the 2012 holiday season.
The tradition of Grand Illumination originated in 1934 with a "White Lighting." The first re-creation of an 18th-century Christmas in Williamsburg featured single candles in the windows of the Historic Area's restored and reconstructed buildings, as well as garlands and greens on the outside of the buildings.