T’is the season! We love Christmastime and all the trappings, decorating the tree, singing carols, eating holiday goodies, kissing under the mistletoe, exchanging gifts with our loved ones. But what is behind the traditions we hold so dear? Many of them were popularized during the Victorian era, the period in which our inn, A Bed of Roses, was built. Many started much earlier.
Evergreens have always held special meaning for ancient inhabitants of northern climates, and many believed that they keep away illness, witches and evil spirits. Christians in Germany first adapted these “pagan” practices into their religious traditions by decorating an evergreen tree and bringing it inside. Although the Christmas tree has been a German tradition as early as the 16th century, Prince Albert, the husband of Queen Victoria, introduced the custom to the royal family in 1841 and a tinted etching of the decorated tree was published in the Illustrated London News, causing Christmas trees to be all the rage in Victorian England. They decorated the live trees with lighted candles (do not do this!), ribbons, paper chains, fruit and candies. The fashion conscious American East Coast Society quickly followed suit.
While Europeans decorated small trees, Americans, of course, went for the biggest, floor to ceiling trees. In Asheville, the grand Biltmore Estate demonstrates this passion for the biggest and most elaborate Christmas trees. George Vanderbilt first opened the Biltmore House to friends and family on Christmas Eve 1895 and Christmastime has been celebrated there in grand style ever since. The mansion is filled with dozens of uniquely decorated trees, but the most impressive is a 35 foot tall fraser fir that has been raised in the Grand Banquet Hall, ablaze with lights. The most magical and romantic time to see the impressive display of trees and decorations is during the Biltmore Candlelight Evenings. All the fireplaces are aglow as carolers and musicians play throughout the house guiding you from one spectacular holiday scene to another. A Bed of Roses offers several Biltmore Candlelight Evening Packages, customized to let you choose your special holiday experience.
Stay tuned for more holiday traditions and the joyous ways we celebrate them here in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains.