Before I let go of Williamsburg, there's one last thing I have to share. The Christmas wreaths were up when we visited, and nearly all were made from food.
The wreaths represent only what the colonial inhabitants would have had—either through imports or from their own land. They showcased garlic and pineapples and cinnamon, apples, dried chili peppers and pine. There were feathers from the tails of ringed neck pheasants (lost, it's likely, to dinner). From the sea came scallop shells and oysters, and from away dried pomegranates, oranges, and limes.
Or so I imagined as we walked. Turns out, while the ingredients were available, nobody hung them on their doors. Imagine affording a pineapple, and leaving it to be ravaged by squirrels and rot. The tradition began instead in the 1920s, with a colonial revival sweeping the country's decor, and a bit more wealth to spare. They're called Della Robbia wreaths, after the style 15th century Italian sculptor Luca della Robbia, who framed his subjects in garlands of flowers and fruit.
Still the wreaths were beautiful, stark and pleasantly absent of ribbon, tinsel, and wire. My grandmother remembers making them, stringing together pine boughs and fruit. The fruit I cannot sacrifice; a fresh local apple is too much to waste. But cinnamon, garlic, and chili peppers—with these I plan to make a wreath. I don't know from experience, but I'm guessing they're less likely to be eaten, given the dried goods are potent rather than sweet.
I've heard Tim Friary still has some garlic, at Cape Cod Organic Farm; the chili peppers you must already have saved. Cinnamon is shipped in to Atlantic Spice Co., and the twigs you can find in the woods. If any of you manage a wreath, I'd love to see it here.