Saturday, November 13, 2010

Christmas at Biltmore Estates

Over the years we have made numerous visits to Biltmore Estates, the home of George and Edith Vanderbilt in Asheville, North Carolina, and we have learned lots fascinating tidbits about the Victorian era, and life on the property! Last week we made another excursion to Biltmore to see the setting up and decorating of the huge Christmas tree that graces the dining hall! It was our first time to witness this event!

The day started cold, dreary and lightly drizzling, perfect weather for warming your hands with hot wassail or hot cocoa as we stood waiting outside! In the portico to the right of the main entrance of the home, a group of carolers sang Christmas songs adding a festive touch to the day! About a half an hour before the tree arrived it stopped drizzling, what a blessings! Being cold and damp is not good for the spirit!

After wandering about in the crowd in front of the mansion, looking for a good place to take pictures of the procession, I chose a place to stand on the steps up above all the people. Unfortunately I was on opposite side of the house from the wagon and tree coming toward me. I did move down on the driveway, but there were too many people on the sides to get a good shot. Oh well, maybe another time!

The very tall Christmas tree was carried down the drive and up to the front door of the mansion on a long wagon that was pulled by two beautiful Belgium draft horses! Santa was waving to the crowd of guests from the front of the wagon and the driver was standing by his side. As I watched this grand procession, and I could not help but think what it must have been like the first time they brought the Christmas tree to the house!

A large group of staff people, who were carrying very long metal poles made quick work of getting the tree off of the wagon. They were quite efficient, and worked safely among all the guests! I would say since they have been doing this for over 100 years, they have the procedure down! It was an awesome feat to see! All those people carry that extremely heavy pine tree up the steps, through the front door and into the house!

Once inside, they carried the tree into the expansive dining hall and hoisted it upright with the star attached to the top bough! Sorry to say, there are no pictures allowed within the house, so I cannot show you what all this looked like. To give you an idea how large the tree was, the decorations were put on the tree by people standing on scaffolding! That puts our 6 foot tall Christmas tree to shame!

We spent the rest of the day going through the house looking at all the lovely Christmas decorations already on display, and did a little shopping too! Later, we enjoyed a bountiful feast at the Deerpark Restaurant, one of several restaurants on the property. The boys loved visiting Antler Village, where there are old-fashioned games to play, animals to pet, and farm equipment to sit on! We also watched the blacksmith create a beautiful iron leaf out of a small iron rod!

As the day came to a close, the sky began to clear and there was a rainbow in the sky to the east of Antler Village! All in all it was a wonderful day and we thoroughly enjoyed our Christmas at Biltmore Estates!


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