Downtown Smithfield Christmas Parade (8).JPG

Smithfield ham is as much a part of the holidays for some families as a Christmas tree, so we thought it would be a good idea to check out what the good folks in Smithfield, Va., do to celebrate the season.

By law, a ham can’t carry the name “Smithfield” unless it’s produced within the confines of the southeast Virginia town, which is situated along the Pagan River, not far from the Historic Triangle of Jamestown, Yorktown, and Williamsburg, Smithfield has its own distinguished history (aside from its legendary hams) that includes Colonial, Civil War, and Cold War components.

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Downtown Smithfield Christmas Parade (7).JPG

Smithfield greets the holidays with its Holiday Open House Weekend, Nov. 2–4, when two dozen or more shops and attractions open their doors with special deals just in time for holiday shopping.

On Nov. 10, you can get in shape for the holidays during the Big Pig bicycle event. Choose from the 62-mile metric century, the 35-mile, or the 25-mile route. Anyone in the family not into biking can stroll through the Downtown Smithfield Pickers Market, 9 a.m.–1 p.m.

The Smithfield Farmers Market hosts a special Thanksgiving Market on Nov. 17, 9 a.m.–1 p.m., followed by an evening market along Main Street, 4–8 p.m. Both are great places to pick up food for holiday celebrations, and you also can find crafts such as wreaths and centerpieces.

Christmas comes to Smithfield on Nov. 30 when downtown lights up with a tree lighting, holiday décor in shops, and late hours for shopping. Santa even makes an appearance at the Isle of Wight Museum.

Dec. 1–2, tour four of Smithfield’s finest homes on the holiday home tour. Your ticket also gets you into the antiques show at Smithfield Center during the weekend, or you can just pay $6 and see the antiques offered by vendors from across the region.

The farmers market returns Dec. 1 and 15 with holiday goodies and crafts. And, locals say not to miss the highlight of the season, Smithfield’s annual Christmas parade, on Dec. 13. This year’s theme, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” is sure to be a winner.

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Williamsburg’s Grand Illumination

Across the James River in Colonial Williamsburg, the Grand Illumination is an annual crowd-pleaser. On Dec. 2, 4–7:30 p.m., the historic area welcomes the holidays with the same pageantry once reserved for a sovereign’s birthday or a new Colonial governor. The firing of guns and lighting of fireworks add a sparkle to the season.

In addition to strolling the streets and finding shopping opportunities, modern-day visitors can enjoy musical performances, including traditional fifes and drums, on multiple stages throughout the historic area. The ice skating rink at Merchants Square is open, and the cressets burning fat wood along the streets provide both illumination and warmth if you get close enough.

Fredericksburg’s holiday homes tour

The Holiday Candlelight tour sponsored by the Historic Fredericksburg Foundation is always a highlight of the season. Fredericksburg’s rich architectural heritage makes this a special opportunity to see beautiful holiday décor and amazing historic homes. This year’s tour is Dec. 8–9, 11 a.m.–5 p.m.

The docent-led tours in three houses on Prince Edward Street and two on Hanover Street get you into private homes where professional decorators, designers, and artists have worked their magic for an experience that visitors return for year after year. Visit the gift shop at 725 Jackson St. to check out the annual tour commemorative ornament. Other vendors also will be at the gift shop selling items for the holiday season.

Lynchburg’s grand celebration

Lynchburg chose the yuletide season to celebrate the re-opening of the Academy Center of the Arts historic theater. First opened in 1905 and closed as a segregated theater in 1958, the attraction underwent a $30 million renovation and will reopen Dec. 6 with a legendary musical act.

The celebration continues with a holiday movie marathon Dec. 8, followed by symphony, artistic, and big band performances throughout the month, culminating with a New Year’s Eve bash.

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