Colonial Williamsburg was a success when it opened to the public in 1934. But when visitors continued to arrive into the fall and the Christmas holidays, town fathers were at a loss for attractions, so they placed live candles in the windows of all the restored buildings and paid staff members to baby sit them through the evenings so the buildings would not burn.
But as time passed, officials decided that a Christmas decorating contest would give residents of the town the incentive to put on a show for visitors. Today, the contest is more competitive – and creative – each year, with bragging rights and a cash prize on the line.
The rules are strict. Wreaths and other decorations can only be made of materials that would have been available in the colonial town in the late 1700s. Floral wire – even a glue gun – can be used for construction, but they must be hidden from view. Of late, oyster shells and feathers are popular. Taverns and shops are urged to include their wares in their decorations, thus you will see tankards in one wreath, a leather shoe in another and an entire wreath made of wood shavings above the door at the woodworker’s shop.