As usual, Colonial Williamsburg went all out with the Grand Illumination festivities over the weekend. (We hope you enjoyed them either in person or via social media!). Now that we’re fresh off Grand Illumination weekend, it’s time to talk decorations. You may remember from last year’s post that the tradition in our house is to let the kids pick the theme (for better or worse). At first, I wondered how we could outdo our Star Wars wreaths of last year, but then I heard the kids’ new theme. And truth be told, I was probably more excited than they were…
Let me preface this with some historical context. Fall 1998: A 13-year-old me gets a copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling from her Scholastic book order form, and proceeds to fall in love with the magical world it introduces. Fast forward to fall 2016: the now 31-year-old me gets an email announcing an essay by J.K. Rowling about The Magical Congress of the United States of America (MACUSA). I excitedly read through it to discover information about the magical world in America.
And then, it appears…
That’s right. Our beloved colonial hometown was officially a legitimate part of the wizarding world of Harry Potter.
Now, it’s only fair that we point out there have been a few errors in our beloved author’s writing on America. Most specifically, the name “United States” was not in use when the Magical Congress of the United States was established in 1693. But there are some options in addressing this! So on behalf of myself and Colonial Williamsburg, I would love to invite J.K. Rowling to come for a visit and we can sort out some historical details, dates, locations, and maybe even sit down with the American Indian interpreters for a chat.
All that to say, in honor of the wizarding world coming to America with the new film, the kids decided we should do Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them!
This was challenging in two ways. First, there was the annual problem of “how do we make our modern theme colonial?” since we do, after all, live in the Historic Area. Secondly, although there was a book, it wasn’t a traditional story. It was more of a reference. The movie didn’t open until November 17. That’s right. If you do the math, that gave us about two weeks to see it, come up with a plan, and execute it! But as you’ve probably learned by now, I love a good challenge.
And luckily, we are part of a living history museum full of fellow Harry Potter nerds who are also ridiculously talented. I had lots of help. For example, our dear friend and last year’s “lightsabersmith” Jenny, is like a walking wizard encyclopedia. She is also a Hufflepuff like Newt Scamander (our movie’s main character), so she was ready to represent the black and yellow. Together, we came up with a plan.
On the front door, our magnolia “S” is actually a dragon in disguise. My favorite part of making it was going to the Colonial Gardens and literally asking them to find me something that looked like a dragon eyes.They were kind enough take that very seriously rather than laughing at my weird question.
The upstairs wreaths include wands shooting spells (drumsticks and homemade tin swirls). Jenny also made a Deathly Hallows symbol and we hid it in one of those wreaths. It’s easy to spot when the sun hits the house!
The downstairs window wreaths each represent something different. The bag is our 18th-century take on the worn-out suitcase Newt Scamander carries around in the movie. The cockade (purchased at the Greenhow Store) is an ode to his Hogwarts house colors.
The MACUSA symbol is both a representation of the organization’s presence in the movie as well as the aforementioned Williamsburg connection. Thank you to our Art Museum’s magical creature expert and fellow Ravenclaw Christina Westenberger for the idea! The needlework on the wreath was done by the incredibly talented Nicole Dixon of our Products department. You may know her from the William Pitt Store.
The wreath with the coins, buckles, and pearls is themed after the Niffler—a magical creature that loves all things shiny. Mary Herbert, freelance artist and recent intern for the Weavers, was kind enough to add some paw prints to our window. The other creature-theme represents the Occamy. It’s a representation of a great scene in the movie, but I don’t want to spoil it, so that is all I will say about that.
And there you have it, a behind-the-scenes, in-depth analysis of this year’s crazy wreath theme! My apologies to the muggles reading this who are unfamiliar with the Harry Potter universe and have no idea what I am talking about. I hope I at least piqued your interest!
Leave your suggestions for next year’s theme in the comments and I will be glad to give them to “the committee.” Just remember its members are 13, 7, 6, and 3, so you may want to plan your suggestions accordingly.
From our family to yours… Happy Holidays!
Special thanks to Fred Blystone for once again capturing great images of each of our wreaths.
GUEST BLOGGER: KATHERINE MORRIS AINSLIE
Katherine is the Externship Program Coordinator for the William & Mary Law School. She has four children – Alexandra (13), Senet (7), Thaine (6), and Flynn (3). Katherine and her significant other, Alex Morse, are avid board gamers and boast an impressive and ever-growing collection of games. Beyond having their weekly board game parties, Katherine loves hosting visitors and throwing big parties including their famous annual Kentucky Derby party. She also enjoys British costume dramas, obnoxiously bright colors and patterns, cooking, & consuming large quantities of Aromas coffee.