anticipating a Grand Illumination


One of the most festive events of this most wonderful time of the year is held annually on the first full weekend in December in Williamsburg, Virginia. I’m talking about Grand Illumination! And it begins today.

It’s one of my favorite things in all the world. Truly.

Fireworks at the Governor’s Palace. Fireworks at the Capitol. Fireworks at the magazine. And cressets and bonfires up and down DOG Street. The promise of gambols at Chowning’s and rummers and punch at Shield’s. An early breakfast at King’s Arms and tea at Christiana Campbell’s. The tree lighting. Visits from Washington and Jefferson. Worship in Bruton Parish. And always the hope that it will snow.

I’m not sure what the lure is exactly, although admittedly I do have a predilection for the era. Maybe it’s the excitement of the season. Or of seeing a country sitting right on the cusp of something, knowing what’s coming and where the discourse and strife and rebellion leads. Maybe it’s pride. Again, I’m not sure. But I love it.

As I sit here on this side of history and this side of the ocean, I think about our impending move to the other side – the other side of history and the other side of the ocean. The more I think and the more I reflect on events and traditions like Grand Illumination, the more fiercely loyal I become. Loyal to a people who roused themselves and moved on. Loyal to an ideal that never quite went away. Loyal to a nation birthed out of principle. And hopeful that we will keep rousing ourselves, keep our ideals, keep our principles. And carry on.

If you haven’t been, go. It’s an event and a spectacle and a celebration and loads of fun. And while once might be enough for you, it’s not for me. Huzzah!


One thought on “anticipating a Grand Illumination

  1. Agree – it is peculiarly wonderful and wonder-filled, and if one hasn’t experienced it, one has trouble understanding the lure and desire for annual revisitation. “18th century, simple and low fireworks (by today’s standards) with a bunch of strangers in front of a few old buildings”; “fire and smoke everywhere, yet one is still gets chilled by the December weather”; “squeezing in with strangers after a wait to eat pioneer-type food, gamey, almost always with biscuits”; “salty ham with everything”. And yet I love it, too!

What do you think?