Williamsburg Local Customs

  • Cook in the Governor's Palace kitchen
    Cook in the Governor's Palace kitchen
    by grandmaR
  • Fireplace in Governor's Palace kitchen
    Fireplace in Governor's Palace kitchen
    by grandmaR
  • Costumed docent in guest bedroom
    Costumed docent in guest bedroom
    by grandmaR

Most Recent Local Customs in Williamsburg

  • deecat's Profile Photo

    A Great Time to Visit is at Christmas!

    by deecat Updated May 28, 2005

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Richard T. Nowitz photo of decorations

    If you are tired of the commercial Christmas, then you might want to try to see Colonial Williamsburg during the holiday season. Williamsburg starts the celebration on the first Sunday in December with the Grand Illumination ceremony, which is their start to the Christmas season.

    Williamsburg is most well known for its creative use of "natural decorating materials". The houses and public buildings are decorated with crafted arrangements of pine, boxwood, Frasier fir, magnolia leaves, holly, and fruits and berries. Guides lead tours through the historic area and describe the techniques and materials used in the making of the various decorations.

    This year (2004),they were to have a conference and classes on this very topic.

    I guess for some families, it's a tradition to come to Colonial Williamsburg each year...some have come as newly weds and now bring their own grandchildren! Remember, it is crowded during the holiday seasons so you have to make reservations early.

    You can enjoy a candle-lit holiday feast at a Colonial tavern; take in the production of Babes in Toyland at the Kimball Theatre; take part in caroling at various locations throughout town; go to the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum and learn how children of the past amused themselves at "Child's Play: A Celebration of Antique Toys"; take a Christmas Decorations Walking Tour; or learn how Colonial-era enslaved Africans celebrated Christmas at "Everybody's Shoutin' at the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum. There is a one-man show performed by Gerald Charles Dickens, the great-great-grandson of Charles Dickens doing A Christmas Carol.

    Related to:
    • Historical Travel
    • Arts and Culture
    • Festivals

    Was this review helpful?

  • matcrazy1's Profile Photo

    The Red Army in Williamsburg?

    by matcrazy1 Updated Jan 1, 2005

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    ROYAL,  BRITISH  SOLDIER

    I met this guy, on my picture, in main avenue of Colonial Williamsburg. He was a historical interpreter costumed in the red uniform. Well, he surely wasn't the famous or rather unfamous Red Army soldier but lower rank Royal, British soldier.

    COLOUR OF ARMY
    I got to know that red colour for the British Army was adopted in 1645 when first permanent army was raised (12 years after Williamsburg was settled). Why red? I don't know. Most think in order to hide blood stains. Different colours of troops helped to recognize enemy's troops from a distance at a battlefield and avoid friendly fire.

    Well, every army adopted certain colours as their national colours::
    French - blue,
    Russian - green,
    British - red.

    And later on:
    Union (U.S., North) - blue (why blue? maybe because they fought together with already blue French Army against red British Army during the War for Independence)
    Confederate (South) - grey.

    HAT
    He was the only gentelman who wore broad brimmed hat in Colonial Williamsburg which was fashionable in... early colonial times in 17th century. His army mate was an officer and wore tricornered hat.

    Related to:
    • Road Trip
    • Historical Travel
    • Arts and Culture

    Was this review helpful?

  • matcrazy1's Profile Photo

    Where did they dine?

    by matcrazy1 Updated Dec 31, 2004

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    TRELIS  RESTAURANT  AND  CAFE

    Folks used to dine/drink indoor or in a garden/backyard in the past and the historic town continues this tradition. There are no tables put on a street in front of local restaurants and taverns in Colonial Williamsburg. Instead there are tables hidden in the backyards in some of them.

    But just outside strict historic area, at Merchants Square (western end of Duke of Gloucester Street) I found it - Trellis Restaurant And Cafe with tables and umbrellas put outside along a street. Sit down, relax and watch people. I will do it... next time. And I will order Death by Chocolate cake ($6.50) with cafe au lait. Or better I will follow Nat's suggestion and go to eat at Shields Tavern. They have better desserts there too.

    Related to:
    • Road Trip
    • Historical Travel
    • Food and Dining

    Was this review helpful?

  • matcrazy1's Profile Photo

    Octagonal towers

    by matcrazy1 Written Dec 30, 2004

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    TOWER  OF  BRUTON  CHURCH

    I am not sure whether it's unique to Williamsburg (rather not) but I noticed that towers of both Bruton Church and some larger residential houses (mansions) were always octagonal. I have no idea why.

    This octagonal, wooden tower of Bruton Church, on my picture, looks strange put on much thicker, red brick, square lower part of the tower. It simply doesn't suit here. And it seems that lack of money forced the church constructor to change design and to put lower and less expensive tower.

    Related to:
    • Historical Travel
    • Road Trip
    • Architecture

    Was this review helpful?

  • matcrazy1's Profile Photo

    Religion in Williamsburg

    by matcrazy1 Written Dec 30, 2004

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    ALTAR  OF  BRUTON  CHURCH

    There is one church in Colonial Williamsburg - the Bruton Church. It's the Anglican (= Episcopal) church (Church of England). In colonial times the church was supported by taxes of its members. But the tax-payers who disliked centralized church authority, gained control of parish vestries and county courts to secure their power over religious matters.

    Well, the Bruton Church, in contrast to many European Roman Catholic churches of 18th century, looked very modest. Does it prove quite different position (and budget) of both churches?

    ANGLICAN CHURCH
    There is no single Anglican Church. World-wide organisation of Anglican Churches (usually national churches of certain countries) is called http://www.anglicancommunion.org]the Anglican Communion. The church originates from Roman Catholic church but it doesn't recognize the primate of Roman Catholic pope. The leader of the Anglican Church is the Archbishop of Canterbury as primus inter pares or "first among equals".

    Related to:
    • Religious Travel
    • Architecture
    • Historical Travel

    Was this review helpful?

  • matcrazy1's Profile Photo

    Gallows-like structures

    by matcrazy1 Updated Dec 27, 2004

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    ADVERTISEMENT  ON  GALLOWS

    There are a lot of gallows in Colonial Williamsburg. Well, in real the gallows-like structures like this one on my picture are used to hang advertisements of local stores and taverns not to hang criminals. Were they precursors of current tall advertisement poles put by every main highway?

    In the past there were real gallows in Williamsburg used to hang people sentenced for various, not always serious, crimes.

    Related to:
    • Historical Travel
    • Architecture
    • Road Trip

    Was this review helpful?

  • matcrazy1's Profile Photo

    Wine of Williamsburg

    by matcrazy1 Updated Dec 26, 2004

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    WILLIAMSBURG'S  WINES

    Early colonists drank wine in Williamsburg, at the beginning imported from Europe (expensive), then local. Wine is produced in Williamsburg since the early colonial times in 17th century when the law ordered each settler to plant at least 10 vines for the purpose of making wine on his own land.

    That's why I saw 7 local different kinds of wine in old-fashionable colonial M. Dubois Grocer in Colonial Williamsburg. They were produced by the Williamsburg Winery which I unfortunately didn't visit :-(.

    Related to:
    • Historical Travel
    • Wine Tasting
    • Road Trip

    Was this review helpful?

  • matcrazy1's Profile Photo

    They drank beer and cider

    by matcrazy1 Updated Dec 26, 2004

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    GINGER  BEER  AND  GRAPE  CIDER  I  BOUGHT

    I saw both beer and cider sold in old-fashionable colonial grocery (M. Dubois Grocer) in Williamsburg.

    BEER
    I got to know that early British colonists of Williamsburg (settled in 1633) had a fairly simple life. The typical immigrant had only three things on their mind: where to get food, how to secure shelter and when would they get their next beer. Well, imported beer was expensive, so they erected a brewhouse as one of their first structures.

    DEADLY FRESH WATER
    Drinking fresh water could make them deathly ill. In those times people didn't know that boling water can prevent fatal diseases. So, they were looking for more safe drinks for daily use. Is that the reason that most American beers till today are light or very light? Well, can you imagine early settlers and their women and kids drinking strong beer all the day?

    CIDER
    As Williamsburg had good climate both for apples orchards and grapes settlers started to make both apple and grape cider very soon. Cider was cheaper than beer because of simpler technology and became the most often used drink in early colonial times especially among lower classes. Tea and later coffee (wine as well) were always more expensive and drank mostly by upper classes.

    Related to:
    • Road Trip
    • Historical Travel
    • Beer Tasting

    Was this review helpful?

  • matcrazy1's Profile Photo

    Different and always single houses

    by matcrazy1 Updated Dec 26, 2004

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    RAW  HOUSES  ALONG  DUKE  OF  GLOUCESTER  STREET

    Colonial houses are put along both sides of main streets in a raw, especially along Duke of Gloucester Street. But, in contrast to many European cities of 18th century, they are never joined. Each house stay as a single unit with own backyard and usually look different than the next one. Houses are always seperated from the neighbouring ones by at least narrow alleyway.

    Well, new lands of America offered a lot of space for settlers. Early settlers to America were individualists who wanted to put up different houses than their neighbours. Later on, during my southern trip, I found it a typical feauture of residential and often even business districts of old colonial cities and towns.

    Related to:
    • Historical Travel
    • Road Trip
    • Architecture

    Was this review helpful?

  • matcrazy1's Profile Photo

    Officer of Royal British Army

    by matcrazy1 Updated Dec 25, 2004

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    ROYAL,  BRITISH  OFFICER

    I met this guy, on my picture, in main aveniue of Colonial Williamsburg. He was a historical interpreter costumed in the uniform of a Royal, British officer. British troops resided in colonial Williamsburg since early colonial times (17th c.) till the end of British power over Virginia.

    Virginia was a British colony till 1776 when the Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Continental Congress - legislative body of 13 British colonies - in Philadelphia. Well, in reality, changing power was a process not a single date in history and was difficult as British, Royal troops attacked young American army which started the Revolutionary War (1775 - 1783) won by the United States of America.

    Related to:
    • Road Trip
    • Historical Travel
    • Arts and Culture

    Was this review helpful?

  • matcrazy1's Profile Photo

    Women's informal dress (18th century)

    by matcrazy1 Written Dec 23, 2004

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    COLONIAL  WOMAN

    This costumed lady, on my picture, sat down on front of the Williamsburg's colonial Post Office.

    She was costumed in informal dress of typical woman of 18th century. I paid attention to her:
    1. cotton cap with some decorative ruffles added at the front edge,
    2. casual dress,
    3. cape - typical protective outer garment that is shaped to the neck; it covered her shoulders, can be fastened at the center front and was usually shorter than a cloak. A cape was made of either heavy or light fabrics of wool, cotton or silk.
    4 protective outer garment with covers her front lower part.

    Related to:
    • Road Trip
    • Arts and Culture
    • Historical Travel

    Was this review helpful?

  • matcrazy1's Profile Photo

    Cellar bulkhead

    by matcrazy1 Written Dec 22, 2004

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    CELLAR  BULKHEAD

    Most of colonial houses have such small structures as on my picture added by the front wall. It is an entrance to cellars or better to say low basement. It is covered by the two-wing flap.

    It wasn't comfortable to go to the cellars from outside especially in bad weather but upper classes had servants and slaves in colonial times. By the time the entrance served as a place to load the basement with stuff (food, wine, beer). The entrance to the basement was through the stairs inside the house.

    Related to:
    • Historical Travel
    • Architecture
    • Road Trip

    Was this review helpful?

  • matcrazy1's Profile Photo

    Colonial waste bin

    by matcrazy1 Updated Dec 22, 2004

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    COLONIAL  WASTE  BIN

    Do you have any rubbish? Do you look for any waste bin to put the rubbish in it? In historic area of colonial Williamsburg do look for such wooden barrels like on my picture. They are numerous all around the town. If you smoke cigarettes don't forget to put your cigarette out before.

    I have no idea what natives used for rubbish in the 17th and 18th century. A moveable container for the temporary storage of rubbish was known since 1800s. Before? Hmm... I don't know, they could dig rubbish in the land, to burn them or to throw them into a river or...

    Related to:
    • Backpacking
    • Road Trip
    • Historical Travel

    Was this review helpful?

  • matcrazy1's Profile Photo

    Side chimneys and gable roofs

    by matcrazy1 Written Dec 22, 2004

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    SIDE  CHIMNEY  AND  GABLE  ROOF

    Most residential houses of colonial Williamsburgs have brick side chimneys and gable roofs.

    The brick chimney is built outside the main building, added to its side wall. Larger houses have two symmetrical chimneys on both side walls.

    The sloping roof of an average colonial house is very steep and sometimes it covers two floors of the house - lower one with dormer windows of bedrooms and upper one with no windows.

    Related to:
    • Historical Travel
    • Road Trip
    • Architecture

    Was this review helpful?

  • matcrazy1's Profile Photo

    Trades interpretors

    by matcrazy1 Updated Dec 22, 2004

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    TRADES  INTERPRETER

    There are right many costumed trades interpreters in colonial Williamsburg. This one, on my picture, works in metal, share his techniques with children and presents his works to them.

    The trades interpretors present themselves as 21st century people, but they use 18th century tools and techniques in their chosen trades. Keep in mind that some of the best craftspeople in the nation worked in the capitol of the wealthiest and most populated British colony in America - Virginia.

    Related to:
    • Road Trip
    • Arts and Culture
    • Historical Travel

    Was this review helpful?

Instant Answers: Williamsburg

Get an instant answer from local experts and frequent travelers

89 travelers online now

Comments

Williamsburg Local Customs

Reviews and photos of Williamsburg local customs posted by real travelers and locals. The best tips for Williamsburg sightseeing.

View all Williamsburg hotels