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Video: Mini-Documentary "Raising Biltmore's Christmas Tree" Celebrating 125th Anniversary

Tuesday, October 20th 2020

ASHEVILLE, N.C. (WLOS) — The joyful spirit of the holidays combines with the nostalgia of the past to create a holiday experience like no other at Biltmore.

Christmas at Biltmore begins Nov. 6, 2020, and runs through Jan. 10, 2021. Grand décor of more than 100 hand-decorated and styled Christmas trees, 25,000 ornaments, 100,000-holiday lights, nearly 6,000 feet of garland, 1,200 traditional poinsettias and additional favorite holiday plants will grace Biltmore House and the estate combined.

125th Anniversary of the opening of Biltmore House

George Vanderbilt invited 26-guests at the first Christmas Eve in 1895.

It was Christmas Eve 1895 when Biltmore’s founder George Vanderbilt first opened the doors of Biltmore House to family and friends. Just as the first guests slipped away from daily life to delight in the grandeur of the estate, those who visit 125 years later this holiday season are invited to find comfort, joy, and peace of mind in Biltmore’s Christmas traditions. Biltmore’s design team has interpreted the theme of “An 1895 Christmas” into this year’s holiday décor, taking inspiration from the estate’s archives with a focus on a traditional and classic Christmas.

Christmas Raising at Biltmore

One of Biltmore’s most beloved holiday traditions is when the 35-foot Fraser fir Christmas tree is raised in the grand Banquet Hall. This is the finishing touch for Christmas at Biltmore, taking place right before guests are welcomed to the estate for the season. It is also quite the sight to behold, as it is the largest tree in Biltmore House and decorated with 500 ornaments and 500 lights, with wrapped packages tucked into its branches. NEW this year, a mini-documentary special will debut at 5 p.m. EST on Wednesday, Nov. 4 on Biltmore’s Facebook and YouTube channels with an exciting view of tree’s journey to become the seasonal centerpiece in Biltmore House. It will give viewers an insider’s look as the tree goes up in the Banquet Hall with behind-the-scenes details and stories from the people who create the magic of Christmas at Biltmore.

Two experiences are available to enjoy Biltmore during the holiday season -- the Christmas at Biltmore daytime house tour experience, and the Candlelight Christmas Evenings nighttime house tour experience. The entire estate is open to guests as part of admission to either Christmas experience.


A Legacy of Elegance and Charm

Since 1895, Biltmore has combined the natural beauty of the mountains and the majestic house and gardens to beguile, inspire, and allow guests to escape from the everyday.

Explore the Past

A History of Family and Gracious Hospitality

The luxurious family home of George and Edith Vanderbilt is a marvel of elegance and charm, as magnificent today as it was more than a century ago. Faithfully preserved and filled with original furnishings and masterpieces of art, no other residence in America offers a more authentic and inspiring view of Gilded Age life while suggesting that the Vanderbilts and their guests are still at home.

Biltmore Estate History Timeline The Vanderbilt Family History


Christmas at Biltmore, Thru Jan. 10, 2021 Daytime

Video Day Biltmore

This beloved tradition includes a daytime tour of Biltmore House while the estate is adorned with holiday decorations that number in the thousands. A daytime visit to Biltmore is a feast for the senses, featuring wreaths, garlands, and the sparkle of ornaments. From Biltmore House to the Winery and Antler Hill Village, guests will want to linger on the estate to experience all that Christmas at Biltmore has to offer. Read More

Candlelight Christmas Evenings, Nov. 6, 2020 – Jan. 9, 2021

Biltmore House glows with candlelight and firelight during this nighttime tour, changing the daytime visit’s mood and experience. Candlelight Christmas Evenings in Biltmore House allows guests to step back in time with an experience reminiscent of the Vanderbilt’s first Christmas spent in Biltmore House in 1895. Musicians stationed throughout the house perform seasonal favorites. Setting the scene is a 55-foot Norway spruce encircled by 36 illuminated evergreens and shrubs sparkling in the center of the front lawn. Hand-lit luminaries line the walkway to Biltmore House. Read More

Holiday highlights on the estate’s grounds: New Christmas pop-up shop, model trains, limited release wines, grand illumination and more

In addition to touring Biltmore House, holiday activities abound throughout the season. Guests can stroll through seasonal blooms and an array of tropical plants inside the Conservatory in the Walled Garden. Holiday plants and flowers will be on display including poinsettias, amaryllis, Christmas cactus, bromeliads, orchids, peace lilies, and more. The Conservatory will also feature Christmas tree-shaped planters with potted plants and natural materials. The estate’s winter gardens and miles of peaceful trails are also available for exploring.

Biltmore’s European-inspired village, Antler Hill Village, will have appearances from Santa for pictures and to hear wish lists from guests. An elaborate model train display featuring replicas of the country’s most unique train stations, Biltmore Gardens Railway, will be decorated for the holidays. As evening falls over Antler Hill Village, a constellation of holiday lights will illuminate trees, quaint buildings, the Winery tunnel and walking paths.

Estate restaurants will offer favorite seasonal dishes and craft cocktails. Bonfires will take place in Antler Hill Village with s’mores kits available for purchase at The Creamery as well as The Kitchen Café inside Village Hotel.

Adding to the estate’s many shopping options, NEW this year will be a Christmas pop-up shop, located in the Legacy at Biltmore building, stocked with everything needed to celebrate the season.

At the Winery, free tastings of wines will be offered as well as the opportunity to purchase wines, including the commemorative Christmas at Biltmore Red Wine and Christmas at Biltmore White Wine. The Winery will also feature a special 125th Anniversary Sparkling Wine which commemorates the opening of Biltmore House on Christmas Eve 1895. Wine bundles handpicked especially for gift-giving will also be available.

Overnight stays in holiday-wrapped accommodations

Biltmore’s lodging properties -- Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate and The Inn on Biltmore Estate -- will feature iconic Christmas trees and festive seasonal flourishes in their lobbies this holiday season.

For those seeking a luxurious retreat with personalized service, The Inn on Biltmore Estate has received the prestigious Forbes Travel Guide Four-star rating every year since opening in 2001. Accommodations are in a private hilltop setting with spectacular views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Guests love to relax and soak in the mountain views in Adirondack chairs on the Grand Terrace. Special holiday packages at The Inn are available.

Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate is a convenient home base for those wanting to be steps away from shopping, restaurants, the illumination in Antler Hill Village, the Outdoor Adventure Center, Biltmore Winery and more. Special holiday packages at Village Hotel are available.

Christmas at Biltmore

Glittering holiday décor adorns each area of the estate from Biltmore House to Antler Hill Village, home to our cozy Village Hotel, four-star Inn, award-winning Winery, shops, and restaurants. With more than 100 decorated trees, 10,000 ornaments, 100,000 twinkling holiday lights, and an array of festive Christmas displays, you’ll want to linger longer to experience all that Christmas at Biltmore has to offer. Things to do at Biltmore

Visit information

Christmas at Biltmore will maintain Biltmore’s health and safety measures in all operations while sharing the joy and the magic of the season with guests. For more information about visiting the estate during the holidays, please visit

One Lodge Street

Asheville, NC 28803



From the #1 Amazon bestselling author of  A Tangled Mercy comes an enthralling novel of secrets, a tumultuous war of ideas, and murder as classes collide in the shadow of Biltmore House.

A note from the Author Joy Jordan-Lake

Looking Back . . .

Sometimes as an author, you look back—way back—and realize you were doing research on a book long before that novel ever came to be plotted or pitched. In my early twenties—quite some time ago now—I was able to spend several summers working for two different and equally beautiful summer camps in western North Carolina, Camp Rockmont in Black Mountain, and Camp Gwynn Valley in Brevard. Those long, lovely summers helped solidify my enthusiasm for the Blue Ridge Mountains and my respect for the culture that has grown and evolved there. One of the summers I worked for Camp Rockmont, some of us on camp staff—all of us sunburned and sweaty—were invited to a home on the grounds of Biltmore Estate belonging to a young woman my age, Dini Cecil (later Pickering), who was connected to Rockmont through a young man she was dating and would eventually marry. Dini, whom I remember as gracious, down-to-earth, and unassuming, turned out to be the person, along with her brother Bill, who would later inherit Biltmore. This seemed a fitting place to thank her again after all these years for the hospitality and pizza that night, and to thank the current staff of Biltmore Estate, who's unfailingly responded to all my questions with patience and interest. I should admit that I began research on George Vanderbilt fully prepared to depict him as merely a background, one-dimensional character, nothing more than the privileged benefactor of his robber baron relatives. But the more I read, the more intrigued I became by the actual man’s complexity: his love for art and the outdoors, his voracious reading, his desire early in life to become an Episcopal priest, his ongoing interest in matters of faith, his contributions to forestry and sustainability, his hospitality, his generosity, and his commitment to bring hundreds of new jobs, as well as training and schools, to western North Carolina. I'd just begun thinking it would be intriguing to set a novel at Biltmore, and various settings around the estate were suggesting ideas for scenes and conflicts--including one tour guide's mentioning the trouble George Vanderbilt had purchasing the last several parcels of land from locals who wanted to hold on to their land. Kerry MacGregor and her family began to take shape in my mind then, though it would be a while later before I could begin research in earnest.



Note: Chase Pickering, the narrator of the tree raising (video above), is the son of the woman Dini Cecil Pickering (letter from Joy above) that she talks about in the story behind how she became interested in Biltmore, back when they were in their 20s. How cool is this!


About Under a Gilded Moon

A Novel of Wealth, Secrets, and Murder in the shadow of Biltmore House

​Biltmore House, a palatial mansion being built by the Vanderbilt's, American “royalty,” is in its final stages of construction in North Carolina. The country’s grandest example of privilege, it symbolizes the aspirations of its owner and the dreams of a girl, just as driven, who lives in its shadow. Kerry MacGregor’s future is derailed when, after two years in college in New York City, family obligations call her home to the beautiful Appalachians. She is determined to distance herself from the opulence she sees rising in the Blue Ridge Mountains, however close its reach. Her family’s land is among the last pieces required to complete the Biltmore Estate. But something more powerful than an ambitious Vanderbilt heir could change Kerry’s fate as, one by one, more outsiders descend on the changing landscape—a fugitive from Sicily, a reporter chasing a groundbreaking story, a debutante tainted by scandal, and a conservationist prepared to put anyone at risk to stoke the resentment of the locals. As Kerry finds herself caught in a war between wealth and poverty, innocence and corruption, she must navigate not only her own pride and desperation to survive but also the temptations of fortune and the men who control it.​

Buy the Book Buy the Book


#1 Amazon Bestseller in Historical Mystery, Suspense and Thrillers

"Crawdads meets the Crawleys in Jordan-Lake’s latest, where she offers up a powerful location in the Biltmore House of Asheville, North Carolina. Pitting rugged locals against Gilded Age interlopers and threaded throughout with a meticulously researched, well-crafted mystery, this is historical fiction at its best.” —Fiona Davis, national bestselling author of The Lions of Fifth Avenue

Book Details

Lake Union Publishing

Formats: Hardcover, Paperback, e-book, and Audiobook

Pub Date: 12.01.20 | 414 pages

ISBN-10: 1542019419 ISBN-13: 978-1542019415

Category: Historical fiction, literary, suspense, mystery

Behind the Scenes

Behind the Scenes of Under A Gilded Moon

Q&A with the Author

Praise for Under a Gilded Moon


About the Author

Joy Jordan-Lake is the bestselling author of eight books, including the #1 Amazon Bestseller A Tangled Mercy and Blue Hole Back Home, which won the Christy Award in 2009 for Best First Novel. Her latest novel, Under a Gilded Moon was released on 12.01.20.

She holds a PhD in English Literature, founded a food pantry in New England for women and families experiencing homelessness, and has taught literature and writing at several universities. Jordan-Lake lives outside of Nashville with her husband and three children. Read More


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