Christmas in Williamsburg
It was just the two of us for Christmas, and we wanted to go somewhere special that didn’t involve plane flights, given the potential for cancellations this time of year. Williamsburg, Virginia was the perfect choice, a 3-hour car trip away.
The Busch Gardens amusement park transforms itself into Christmas Town, switching its focus from fast-paced rides to shows and light displays. The overall effect is magical. The banks of a stream sported trees aglow with yellow lights which reflected in the water, a hillside had green-lit trees and luminaries, while the trees along another pathway were blue and purple. One show was a musical rendition of “A Christmas Carol,” a second was an enactment of the Nativity, complete with a gospel choir, and a third was a show on ice about the Night Before Christmas, featuring 2-time Olympic medalist ice skater Elvis Stojko. Tom ate his fill of sausages, and I enjoyed scrumptious hot chocolate. It was a lovely evening.
Colonial Williamsburg has special Christmas activities and a door decorating contest, with wreaths of dried fruit, flowers, and feathers. The best part of this pre-revolutionary town is, of course, its historical reenactors, who talked to us about shoemaking, brick making, pewter spoon molding, etc. In the courthouse, Tom was recruited to act the part of a North Carolinian who refused to his pay debts to a Virginia tavernkeeper in gold or silver, trying to get her to accept Carolina paper notes. Thomas Jefferson, or at least someone who looked very much like him, told us about himself, and about the importance of character in leadership and compromise among politicians. He mentioned he had three favorite authors, one being Sir Francis Bacon, and when a teenaged female audience member knew the other two--Sir Isaac Newton and Thomas Locke--he remarked that this proved how important it was to educate girls. Later, a printer reminded us that very few had the time or ability to read books as Jefferson did, and he did far better business selling blank notebooks for recordkeeping than printed matter for reading.
We purchased tickets for special shows in advance. We heard a concert on the enchanting hammer dulcimer, and another by a group who played unusual instruments. These included the glass harmonica invented by Ben Franklin, which consisted of glass bowls inserted sideways into a spindle, then spun by a foot peddle and touched by wet hands to create sound. They also played a glass xylophone and a hurdy gurdy. We attended a concert about music popular during six Civil War Christmases, as a narrator recounted the number of dead during battles year after year. On the eve of a battle in Tennessee, the union and confederate bands both played “Home Sweet Home,” and thousands of troops sang the mournful tune together with their enemies. We also learned that in “Camp Town races sing this song, doo da, doo da,” “doo da” meant hanky panky with prostitutes.
The day before Christmas, we enjoyed peanut soup, hot apple cider, rum punch, and hot buttered rum. Tom told me I was wound too tight, trying to maximize the number of events we attended. After the hot buttered rum, I was completely unwound…On Christmas Day, we gobbled up so much from an all-you-can-eat buffet at a Chinese-Mongolian Barbecue-Japanese restaurant that we could not do justice to our hotel’s all-you-can-eat-breakfast the next morning.
If you’re in the area, we highly recommend visiting Williamsburg in December!
By the way, during our trip to Williamsburg I read “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander, one of the most important books I’ve ever set eyes upon. I also recommend the movie "Slavery by Another Name," which you can watch for free, thanks to PBS, at http://www.slaverybyanothername.com/pbs-film/.