In the years since Elvis Presley’s passing, his Memphis estate Graceland has become hallowed ground. 600,000 fans flock to the property annually, with Graceland at Christmas coming second only to Elvis Week in August as the estate’s most-visited time of year. The landmarked home and museum is lined with memorabilia and records, and Elvis devotees have relished in the opportunity to walk the very same halls as the king since the home opened its doors to the public in 1982. The full-time staff at Graceland work year-round to keep the American icon’s spirit alive on the property, but something about the holidays at Graceland has always been particularly special. Namely because Presley was very much a Christmas guy, as Graceland’s vice president of archives and exhibits, Angie Marchese, tells AD.
“Elvis loved Christmas, it was his favorite holiday,” says Marchese, who has worked at Graceland for over 30 years, beginning as a tour guide at 17 years old. She explains that the staff delved back into Presley’s Christmas traditions in the early 1990s. Per the “Santa Claus Is Back in Town” singer’s wishes, Graceland transforms into a winter wonderland right around Thanksgiving.
Graceland kept blue drapes on the main floor throughout the year, but over the holidays, Presley would have them switched out for festive red ones. The team located those original drapes in excellent condition and rehangs them annually. While the crimson curtains do some heavy lifting to set a joyous holiday mood, they aren’t the only Christmas decor that dates back to Presley’s residency.
“The dining room [held] their main Christmas tree, and it was that heavily decorated with lights, tinsel, and various eclectic ornaments,” Marchese says. “The tinsel that we put on that tree every year is the original tinsel from when Elvis decorated it. Priscilla tells the story that when they were decorating the tree, she would tell Elvis, ‘You hang the tinsel like icicles; it’s supposed to hang down.’ Elvis would ball it up and throw it at the tree, like a snowball.” Magically, it survived Presley’s slapdash yearly installation in Graceland’s archives.