Every year since 1934 on the first Sunday of December, Colonial Williamsburg starts the Holiday Season with the Grand Illumination, where fresh decorations enliven front doors; lit candles are placed in the windows of buildings, taverns, and houses; street lanterns are set ablaze; and fireworks light the night from three different locations in the Colonial area. While guests wait for the sun to set, music can be heard throughout town featuring a cross section of our American contribution to the art — a cappella, folk, African, jazz, and Fifes and Drums.
At 5:00 pm, the Fifes and Drums march from the Capitol and stop at Raleigh Tavern for the first lighting of the night. It is a simple ceremony where music is played, the history of the Grand Illumination is read, and a lit candle is placed in each window of the tavern. Next, near the Palace Green, the illumination of the George Wythe House occurs. After this, the crowds wait for the impending, simultaneous fireworks display at the Governor’s Palace, the Magazine, and the Capitol.
From the simplicity of the Colonial Area, others celebrate the occasion in a much brighter way. The Williamsburg Inn has an exceptional display of white lights that has to be seen to fully appreciate. It is dazzling. The Williamsburg Lodge, by comparison, is slightly more modest, but still represents the season with style. The rest of our community participates, as well, each in our own unique way, from candles in windows to ornate scenes that illuminate neighborhoods. December is a very bright month here in Williamsburg. Come the first week of January, it will look like a massive power outage here at night.
As the town crier exclaimed at the end of the ceremony, greeting the coming holiday, “Hazzah, Hazzah, Hazzah.”
Enjoy the light of the season.