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‘A Colonial Christmas’ Explores Historical Holiday Traditions

WILLIAMSBURG, Va., November 25, 2014—History makes the holidays fun at Jamestown Settlement and the Yorktown Victory Center during “A Colonial Christmas,” December 1, 2014, through January 4, 2015. The month-long event explores 17th- and 18th-century holiday traditions with interpretive programs and, beginning December 20, musical entertainment of the period.

The two living-history museums tell the story of our nation’s beginnings throughout the year with extensive gallery exhibits and historical interpretation in re-created outdoor settings – a Powhatan Indian village, 1607 ships and colonial fort at Jamestown Settlement, and Continental Army encampment and 1780s farm at the Yorktown Victory Center.

Jamestown Settlement
Jamestown Settlement Music and Merriment“A Jamestown Christmas” holiday film and special interpretive programs compare and contrast English Christmas customs of the period with how the season may have been observed in the difficult early years of America’s first permanent English colony. In England, the holiday season – extending from December 25 to January 6 – was a time of merriment and feasting. While little is known about Christmases in early Jamestown, “A Colonial Christmas” activities reflect the cultural traditions recalled by English colonists.

Orientation tours of the museum’s outdoor living-history areas are offered at 11 a.m. and 1 and 3 p.m. daily. Visitors will learn about Jamestown colony’s early years as well as the English colonists’ Christmas at sea in December 1606, the Powhatan Indian hospitality shown to Captain John Smith’s trading party in 1608 during a winter storm, and about the Lord of Misrule, a 17th-century English tradition.

In the re-created fort, visitors can see wattle-and-daub buildings decorated with greenery and periodic demonstrations of fancy cooking. Beginning December 6, fort visitors can experience riddles and revelry by the Lord of Misrule, “grand captain of all mischief,” at 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. daily and, from December 21 through 31, also at 4 p.m.

Throughout the month, historical interpreters will discuss the English colonists’ Christmas at sea aboard the re-created ship Discovery, and present trade demonstrations in the re-created Powhatan Indian village.

Yorktown Victory Center
Yorktown Victory Center Christmas candle dippingHear accounts of Christmas and winter in military encampments during the American Revolution and glimpse holiday preparations on a 1780s farm. Visitors to the Continental Army encampment can learn about winter camp life and hear accounts of Christmas during the war, as well as assist the quartermaster in preparing military supplies and, at 11:05 a.m. and 3:05 p.m. daily, observe artillery demonstrations.

At the clapboard farmhouse adorned with greenery, historical interpreters compare and contrast 18th-century holiday traditions with those of modern times and demonstrate a variety of holiday activities, including setting a farmhouse table for a holiday feast. Visitors can see open-hearth cooking in the farm kitchen and take part in candle-dipping activities.

Period Holiday Music
In Jamestown Settlement’s re-created fort church, visitors can enjoy 17th-century holiday music and dancing at 11:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. December 20-24, December 26-31 and January 2-5, including the Holloway Hundred Consort, David Gardner, Rebecca Suerdieck, and Cobham Consort.

At the Yorktown Victory Center, farm visitors can enjoy 18th-century musical entertainment December 26-31 with daily performances at 11:35 a.m. and 3:35 p.m. Musical performers include The Fifes and Drums of York Town, the Itinerant Band and Dan Jackson. A complete schedule of period musical performances is available online.

Tickets & Private Tours
A value-priced combination ticket to both museums is $20.50 for adults and $10.25 for ages 6-12 (2015: $21.00, $10.50 ages 6-12). Admission to Jamestown Settlement is $16.00 for adults and $7.50 for ages 6-12 (2015: $16.75, $7.75 ages 6-12), and to the Yorktown Victory Center, $9.75 for adults and $5.50 for ages 6-12. Children under 6 are free. Residents of James City County, York County and the City of Williamsburg, including the College of William and Mary, receive free admission with proof of residency.

A History is Fun for the Holidays combination ticket – available online only – offers seven days of unlimited admission to both museums at $20.50 for adults and $10.25 for ages 6-12 (2015: $21.00 and $10.50 ages 6-12) and includes coupon booklets for Williamsburg Premium Outlets and a Historic Yorktown Rewards Card.

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 online or by calling (757) 253-4939.

Holiday Shopping in Museum Stores
In time for holiday shopping, Jamestown Settlement and Yorktown Victory Center museum shops offer a selection of books, prints, museum reproductions, educational toys, games and souvenirs relating to the 17th and 18th centuries. Admission is not required to visit the museum gift shops, open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Shop online at www.shophistoryisfun.com.

How to Get Here
Jamestown Settlement and Yorktown Victory Center are open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily year-round, except for Christmas and New Year’s days. The museums are separated by a 25-minute drive along the Colonial Parkway, a National Scenic Byway. Jamestown Settlement is located on Route 31 just southwest of Williamsburg. The Yorktown Victory Center is located on Route 1020 in Yorktown. Parking is free. For more information, call (888) 593-4682 toll-free, (757) 253-4838 or visit hif.ciniva.net.