Monday, December 10, 2007

Christmas at Biltmore

There are certain places that stay with you long after you visit them. Biltmore House in Ashville, North Carolina is one of those places for me. I visited it when I was about 11 years old and it has made a lasting impression. I even wrote a paper about it in college for my architectural art history class. My visit was in the summer but I dream of visiting Biltmore House again someday at Christmas when the house is filled with spectacular decorations.

It takes a staff of 1,800 a full month to light and decorate over 100 Christmas trees, hang 9,000 feet of fresh garland and hang thousands of ornaments for the more than 300,000 visitors that visit during the holiday season. And you thought decorating your house was a challenge!

Even though, outside decorations were rare at the turn of the 19th century, the lions are now decorated for the holidays with fresh wreaths.

A 35-foot live Fraser fir is placed in the Banquet Hall of Biltmore House every holiday season and takes 45 people to raise the tree since they must be careful not to damage the priceless tapestries or chandeliers. The tradition of having a tree in this room goes back to 1895 when George Vanderbilt first opened the home to his family and friends.

When George Vanderbilt first welcomed guests to Biltmore House on Christmas Eve in 1895 his guests were treated to lavish and festive holiday decor. Today that tradition is kept alive each year and it is the only time when visitors are allowed in the house at night.

During Christmas at Biltmore tall trees line the 90-foot-long halls of the Tapestry Gallery As guests enter the Library a warm glow from the room's large fireplace is cast upon the bookshelves and the Pellegrini ceiling canvas.

The Library is particularly inviting during Candlelight Christmas Evenings with a fire in the massive fireplace throwing dancing shadows across more than 10,000 books.

The Grand Staircase is twined with live evergreen, filling the 250-room Biltmore House with the scent of Christmas.

The black marble fireplace surround and walnut overmantle in George Vanderbilt's impressive library are decorated with garlands made by the Biltmore floral staff during the holiday season.

During Candlelight Christmas Evenings, the Oak Sitting Room glows in the light from candles and matching fireplaces at either end of the room.

During Candlelight Christmas Evenings, Biltmore House is lit by luminaries outside creating an even more beautiful tableaux. I hope those who can visit Biltmore House will make the pilgrimage no matter the time of the year and for those who can't, I hope you are inspired to create a magical Christmas at your own home. Happy Holidays!

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