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Photo Story

Yuletide Treasure


Each autumn the men, women, and children who live and labor in Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Area begin to think on what sorts of decorations with which to adorn their homes, shops, taverns, and workplaces for the holidays. There are doors, windows, mantels, tables, sideboards, and more to festoon in pursuit of a tradition that, if not exactly eighteenth century, reaches to the early days of the city’s restoration.

For sure, the wreaths, swags, garlands, and sprays they’ll hang will be fashioned of natural materials–pine, boxwood, fir, holly, magnolia leaves, yarrow, fruits, berries, and the like. The kinds of things that were available to 1700s Williamsburg householders if the approach of winter had put them in a home-decorating frame of mind.

When they’ve done, today’s occupants of restored and reconstructed homes and exhibition buildings will have assembled about three miles of white pine roping, perhaps 2,550 white pine and fir wreaths, nearly eighty cases of fruit–fifteen truckloads of plant materials–all garnished with limitless supplies of ingenuity and imagination. The goal is to finish in time for Thanksgiving guests to admire the results, and to keep everything fresh and presentable through December 4th’s Grand Illumination–the annual fireworks and window candle lighting signaling the start of Christmastide–and into the new year.

At that season, Colonial Williamsburg photographer Barbara Lombardi often walks Duke of Gloucester, Nicholson, and Francis Streets, and the byways that connect them, capturing images of the best and the newest of the outdoor decorations. Last year she took hundreds of frames of historic facades graced by invention, work, and whimsy. What caught the journal’s eye was the variety of the doors Lombardi shot, the town’s portals to the hospitality of the times, the entryways to the best we have made of our past.