As the deep blue of a cool December evening settles quietly, the aroma of wood burning fires floats through the air. Doorways are hung with boxwood wreaths festooned with fresh fruit. Candles twinkle by the hundreds through frosted window panes. You hear the joyous singing of holiday songs and the occasional trill and rumble of fife and drum. A special quiet, a comforting peace, settles upon the visitor to Colonial Williamsburg at Christmas.

A Colonial Williamsburg Christmas is a season alive with festivities and special events. Perhaps, because it is unlike celebrations anywhere else in the country, Colonial Williamsburg is sought out by those trying to find a traditional Christmas. The 173-acre historic area is adorned in its holiday finery and visitors find the restored town filled with holiday concerts, special programs, plays, banquets and more. This is in addition to the regular 40 buildings, craft shops and colonial-style mercantile shops to explore.Williamsburg is not just for adults at Christmas. It is for families, individuals, couples, anyone seeking Christmas as you might imagine it once was. Holiday decorations and events begin Dec. 1 and run through New Year's. A visitor coming to Colonial Williamsburg anytime during this period will find the decorations at their peak because of a devoted staff who not only work there but live with their families at Williamsburg. There is a rotation of natural greens and wreaths, seasonally fresh items are added almost daily. Each inn and hotel that is operated by Colonial Williamsburg has decorations appropriate to their style.

Because of the unique history and development of Williamsburg, you don't need to purchase a ticket to enjoy the spirit of the town. Since Williamsburg is a living community, home of William and Mary College, it is a vibrant community in 20th century America. At the same time it is truly 18th century Virginia. It is through this unique melding of time and space that a visitor to Williamsburg can simply turn a corner and leave the present behind.

In 1926, John D. Rockefeller Jr., inspired by the foresight and enthusiasm of Rev. W.A.R. Goodwin, then rector of the Burton Parish Church of Williamsburg, commenced on the preservation and restoration of the 18th century city.

In craft shops, the blacksmith, the bootmaker, the gunsmith, the printer, the musical instrument maker, the wigmaker, the cooper and the wheelwright work at their trades using tools and methods used some 200 years ago. Costumed historical interpreters, guardsmen, craftsmen and character interpreters, costumed modern residents who portray actual citizens of the 18th century city on the streets and in their homes, bring to life the restored cityscape.

Operating from the income generated through the sale of tickets, craft objects, productions and publications, etc., Colonial Williamsburg has established a number of convenient options for seeing the city. The Patriots Pass provides unlimited admission to all major exhibits for one year from the date of purchase. The Royal Governor's Pass, generally the most popular, is good for four consecutive days and provides admission to all exhibits in the historic area as well as the Governor's Palace and the Wallace Decorative Arts Gallery. A basic admission ticket, which allows the visitor to choose up to 12 exhibits, is also available.

But, no holiday would be complete without feasting, and it is done with great enthusiasm at Colonial Williamsburg's 10 restaurants and colonial era taverns. In the Kings Arm Tavern, for example, lunch for six is still very affordable, with a wonderful variety of choices, from chicken pot pie to beefsteak to pan-fried rabbit, preceded by an appetizer of a wonderful fruity blend of apricot, pineapple and grapefruit. In addition, special holiday meals with such descriptive names as the Baron's Feast, the Yuletide Supper, and the Groaning Board offer visitors an opportunity to dine on colonial or old English style cuisine while enjoying 18th century style entertainment. Dining reservations are required for all taverns and restaurants at Colonial Williamsburg. These are very easy to arrange but it is particularly important to make reservations for the special feasts as soon as possible because they are extremely popular. Take the Baron's Feast. A lavish three-hour banquet is presided over by a Baron and Baroness who serve as host and hostess for the evening. The meal is sumptuous by any standards, consisting of such delicacies as oyster and lobster pies, roast baron of beef and chocolate chestnut pudding.

Keep in mind, too, that finding a room in Williamsburg is easily done. There are nearly 10,000 hotel rooms available in the greater Williamsburg area within two miles of the historic area. For those who wish only the finest, Colonial Williamsburg operates the world-famous five-star Williamsburg Inn. For families, the Motor House and Governor's Inn are always popular as well as many of the grand name hotels you might expect.

Williamsburg is a comfortable half-day drive south of Washington, D.C., and can be easily combined with a trip to Jamestown and Busch Gardens, Va. Additional information about the historic sites and lodging can be obtained by calling 1-800-HISTORY.

Truly, this capital city of early America flourished because of the dynamic leadership of Washington, Henry and Randolph, as well as the vibrant life of all of its other citizens. You find this same enthusiasm at Williamsburg today. Indeed, colonial boys still follow the custom of "shooting in the Christmas," setting off their guns on Christmas eve and morning. The older citizens revel in parties, caroling, small theatrical performances and, most of all, visiting friends and neighbors. Although the current visitor can get a brief overview of the city in a day, it is recommended that at least three days be planned in Williamsburg in order to fully enjoy its variety of activities, especially at Christmas. The colonial decorating style for the holidays is greens, fruits, nuts and candles. There are never colored lights, shiny balls or tinsel. Candlelight concerts lift the spirit. Indeed, the visitor to Williamsburg at Christmas is a friend.

Christmas is come, hang on the pot,

Let spits turn round, ovens be hot

Beef, pork and poultry now provide

To feast thy neighbors at this tide.

- Michael G. Sullivan lives in Salt Lake City.


(Additional information)

The Patriots Pass, $28 adults, $17 children 6 to 12, is good for one year from date of purchase and serves as admission to all major exhibition buildings.

- The Royal Governor's Pass, $24.50 adults, $14.75 children, is good for the length of current visit up to four days and provides admission to all exhibits in the Historic area.

- Basic admission ticket, $21 adults, $12.50 children, provides admission to your choice of 12 exhibits.