Events — 01 December 2010
All Eyes on Rockefeller Center as New York’s Tree is Illuminated

With Halloween and Thanksgiving comfortably in our rear view mirrors and a calendar that somehow reads December already, the countdown to Christmas and New Years Eve is officially upon us. And while some suggest that Black Friday truly begins the holiday season, in New York City there is only one symbol that truly indicates that Christmas season has begun. On a night when the eyes of America are on our city, that symbol is the lighting of the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center.

We’ve extolled the virtues of visiting the massive tree in a prior Winter Preview column, but was given a rare birds eye view of NBC’s Christmas at Rockefeller Center television special, and we can tell you first hand that the lighting of the tree is an event all its own. Swarms of people crowded around the famed skating rink, lining up by the thousands for a glimpse of some of the evening’s performers. A pregnant Mariah Carey kicking off the show with “Oh, Santa.” Kylie Minogue stirring the crowd with “Let it Snow.” Other holiday performances included Sheryl Crow, Susan Boyle, a newly transitioned New Yorker himself- Josh Groban, the Radio City Rockettes, and even Boyz II Men, who were caught lip syching over a vocal track during a technical difficulty for British pop star Charice.

But alas once the musical distractions and dance numbers subside, the focal point of the event is the tree itself- a majestic 74 foot tall, 40 foot diameter Norway Spruce, that weighs in at right around 12 tons. Decorating this mammoth structure is no easy task. The tree is equipped with over 5 miles worth of wire and over 30,000 illuminating lights, and topped with a 9 1/2 foot Swarovski crystal star, which ways more than 550 pounds. And perhaps best of all is that the tree itself lived locally, donated by New York firefighter Peter Acton.

With temperatures in the mid-50′s last night and with the rain holding off, the lighting of the tree proved to be an outstanding celebration of holiday cheer and Christmas spirit. But fret not if you missed out on this year’s tree lighting, as the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree will be lit every day from 5:30am to 11:30pm, from now through January 7th, which gives you plenty of time to make it down there to take some pictures. But if you have your heart set on seeing a tree lighting, there’s still the tree at Bryant Park, lighting on Thursday, December 2. Happy Holidays!

- Jane Van Arsdale, with photos from Seymour Winterbush

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