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Blue Christmas at Graceland

By AMANDA SHARP

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Graceland mansion, bare of Elvis Presley's favorite Christmas lights since his 1977 death because his father said it was 'just too sad,' is once again bedecked with the azure bulbs that reminded the singer of his recording, 'Blue Christmas.'

The late Vernon Presley barred the blue lights from the grounds of the white-columned mansion since they were his son's favorite decoration, said Vester Presley, the singer's uncle.

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But changes came to Presley's private fortress in 1982, including its opening as a museum. As part of the holiday season at the attraction, blue lights were restrung along the long, curving driveway of Presley's one-time refuge.

Fans were also invited to become a part of Christmas at Graceland by sending tree decorations for two blue spruces in the mansion.

'We're just really engrossed in Christmas,' said Twyla Dixon, museum director. 'This is the first year it's been decorated in the traditional fashion since Elvis died.'

Decorations mailed by Presley fans worldwide range from sparkling ornaments with photos of Elvis to cross-stitched blue Christmas trees to tiny teddy bears, reminders of his hit recording, 'Teddy Bear.'

'A lot of care and love has gone into these,' Mrs. Dixon said.

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Some of the ornaments were to be hung Tuesday night at a party given for 100 youngsters from three local children's homes. The trees decorated with fans' ornaments were placed in the dining room and in the racquetball building adjacent to the home.

Activities at Graceland during the holiday season will focus on charities, Mrs. Dixon said.

Fans will be able to tour the elaborately decorated grounds and hear Presley's Christmas carols from Dec. 17 through Dec. 23 at a cost of $2 with the money to be donated to the March of Dimes.

Fans who cannot visit the mansion can send $7 for a poinsettia to decorate Graceland, with proceeds going to the Hemophilia Foundation.

'So many (fans) wrote letters that said the same thing; they know Elvis would be proud of the way Christmas is being handled at Graceland this year,' Mrs. Dixon said. 'They're so glad we're including contributions to charity because they felt that was such an integral part of Elvis' life.'

The most prominent display at Graceland is a larger-than-life nativity scene, ordered by Presley, that decorates the lawn in front of the white-columned mansion throughout the holiday season.

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