When George Vanderbilt opened Biltmore House for the first time to family and friends on Christmas Eve 1895, it was a special day. The grand celebration began a treasured estate tradition that continues more than a century later.
The first Christmas at Biltmore House was a joyous occasion. Estate records show that Vanderbilt paid close attention to every detail to ensure a memorable holiday experience for his guests. Requests were placed for a large Christmas tree in the Banquet Hall; mistletoe and holly were gathered; and hand-made garlands were hung throughout the house.
Vanderbilt also held a Christmas party for estate employees. Workers and their families were invited to Biltmore House on Christmas morning for a grand party that included cake, ice cream and gifts galore. The Cecil family – Vanderbilt’s descendants and present-day owners of the estate – continues that tradition today, and hosts a holiday celebration for employees and their families.
The magic of the holidays continues today with Christmas at Biltmore, a special celebration offered in November and December. Known as one of the Southeast’s most elegant and awe-inspiring holiday travel destinations, the modern-day celebration is modeled after the estate’s first Christmas, with miles of garden, hundreds of poinsettias, dozens of Christmas trees and an elaborately decorated 35-foot Fraser fir Christmas tree in the Banquet Hall.
Avid Biltmore fans know to mark their calendars for early November for the raising of the Banquet Hall tree. Santa Claus ushers in the giant Fraser fir on a horse-drawn carriage. Guests and employees alike cheer and clap once the tree has been hoisted into its place of honor in Biltmore House.
Other festivities around the estate during the holiday season include free holiday craft seminars at A Gardener’s Place in the Conservatory, visits with Santa in Antler Hill Village, and the release of Biltmore’s special Christmas wine.
In the evening, the enchantment continues with Candlelight Christmas Evenings. Luminaries dot the Front Lawn of Biltmore House and thousands of tiny white lights adorn the Front Lawn’s 55-foot tall Norway Spruce. Inside the House, soloists and choirs perform traditional Christmas music, with the rooms taking on a magical glow as candles illuminate holiday decor.
Special holiday menus at estate restaurants and holiday packages at the four-star Inn on Biltmore Estate complete the experience and promise a memorable visit.