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‘A Colonial Christmas’ Explores Historical Holiday Traditions

WILLIAMSBURG, Va., November 18, 2015—History makes the holidays fun at Jamestown Settlement and the Yorktown Victory Center during “A Colonial Christmas,” December 1, 2015, through January 3, 2016. The monthlong event explores 17th- and 18th-century holiday traditions with interpretive programs and, December 26-31, musical entertainment of the period.

The two living-history museums tell the story of our nation’s beginnings throughout the year with 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 Revolution-period farm at the Yorktown Victory Center.

Jamestown Settlement

“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.

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 demonstrations of fancy cooking. At 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. on December 5 and 6 and December 19-31, fort visitors can experience riddles and revelry by the Lord of Misrule, “grand captain of all mischief.” Throughout the month, historical interpreters will discuss the English colonists’ Christmas at sea aboard the re-created ship Susan Constant and, in the re-created Powhatan Indian village, present demonstrations on typical winter activities, including food preservation and hunting tools and techniques.

Yorktown Victory Center

Hear accounts of Christmas and winter in military encampments during the American Revolution and glimpse holiday preparations on a Revolution-period 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 a.m. and 3 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 periodic candle-dipping activities.

Period Holiday Music & Entertainment

In Jamestown Settlement’s re-created fort church, visitors can enjoy a variety of 17th-century holiday music and dancing at 11:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. on December 5 and 6 and December 26-31, including fiddler David Gardner, Barry and Lynn Trott, and Rebecca Suerdieck. Additional performances will be offered December 19 and 20, December 26-28 and December 31. A complete schedule of performances is available online.

“A Colonial Christmas” is funded in part by a grant from James City County.

Tickets & Private Tours

A value-priced combination ticket to both museums is $21.00 for adults and $10.50 for ages 6-12 (2016: $21.25, $10.75 ages 6-12). Admission to Jamestown Settlement is $16.75 for adults and $7.75 for ages 6-12 (2016: $17.00, $8.00 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.

A History is Fun combination ticket – available online only – offers seven days of unlimited admission to both museums at $21.00 for adults and $10.50 for ages 6-12 (2016: $21.25 and $10.75 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.