Biltmore Tree Raising Marks Beginning of Christmas Season

ASHEVILLE, NC (WSPA) - Christmas came early at the Biltmore estate Wednesday morning. Hundreds gathered outside America's largest private home to see its annual Christmas tree raising, a tradition families look forward to all year.

One woman says she and her family "have been coming for 20 years" and that "it's changed from 50 people to this, but its really fun because it gets Christmas started." Following the Vanderbilt family's footsteps, every year Santa arrives with a 35-foot Frasier Fir in tow. It's a tree that's lifted by a small army, and strategically maneuvered through the house to the banquet hall.

Rick Conard, VP of Operations at Biltmore, said the process remains challenging even after over 30 years of carrying out the tradition. "Once you bring it in you'll hear pops and cracks. The biggest challenge for us is really the first 10-15 feet in the air as the tree goes up. You see the massive chandelier, ancient tapestry, beautiful throne chair and it has just a few feet to get between those historic pieces in the house"

After the tree is lifted and secured in place, the hard work is far from over. Decorating is an all day affair and this year's theme is a Vanderbilt Christmas. Floral Displays Manager Lizzie Borchers says "doing that color palette hasn't been done and we are drawing inspiration from the tapestries." The Biltmore Banquet Hall tree is always decorated with 500 ornaments, gifts boxes and lights, in Vanderbilt family tradition.

This year the winery's holiday decor has been designed to make you feel like you're inside a champagne bottle, another element of surprise that adds to the magic of Biltmore.

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