“It’s the most wonderful time of the year” goes the famous Christmas song. And yes it is…especially in New York City. Celebrating the holiday season in the Big Apple is like nothing you’ve experienced before. The Christmas spirit is as heavy as Santa’s sleigh, and even if you identify a little bit more with sour old Mr. Scrooge than with the jolly man himself, you can’t help but partake in the cheer around these parts of town.
There are an endless array of iconic Christmas memories to make in the City, it’s hard to keep track. But one of them in particular, is something a little extra special – the lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.
The 78-foot tall Norway Spruce hails from Gardiner, New York this year. It was the centerpiece of a family’s front yard, where generations of children would play and create ever lasting memories. But when the enchanting evergreen became too much too handle and maintain, the family decided it would put it to good use and submit it to the Rockefeller Tree selection team for consideration (normally, the foundation searches via aerial views on a helicopter!). Well, it was chosen! This year’s tree weighs in at a whopping 10 tons and traveled hundreds of miles to get to its final frontier.
If you’re wondering what happens to the tree once the season is over, have no fear. The entire tree will be donated to Habitat for Humanity for construction home projects for those in need. And as if that wasn’t great enough, a small piece of the trunk will be saved for the original owner of the tree, of which he plans to make a table out of so the tree’s legacy will live on with his family. Rockefeller will also plant a new tree in the family’s front yard to start a new tradition.
But let’s go back in time a bit. The original Rockefeller Tree idea first came to life in 1931 during the Great Depression as a sign of hope. After the construction completion of what would be known as Rockefeller Center, workers lined up by a tree and snapped a photo one Christmas Eve as they received their paychecks. Ultimately, family members of the workers made homemade garland and ornaments to decorate it and in 1933, the tree lighting tradition officially began. But it wasn’t until 1951 the first tree lighting ceremony was televised.
And if you’re wondering about all the glitz and glam well, the giant star at the top is made of 25,000 Swarovski crystals and the entire tree is now solar powered as of 2007 and can sustain the electricity of a home for an entire month! Can you also believe those lights stretch for 5 miles?!
The Rockefeller Annual Tree lighting event is now as spectacular as the tree itself. Just like the Macy’s Day Parade (previous post), I remember watching this event on TV every December. I was mesmerized by the size and scope of this majestic spruce, and every time I’d visit the City, there was never a doubt on anyone’s mind it would be a stop on the weekend tour (every single year).
This year, I finally got to see it live and it couldn’t have been more magical. As I stood underneath the tree, listening to the sweet sounds of holiday hymns, it was a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience. For nearly two hours (even in the rain), people smiled and shared happy thoughts with one another.
After several performers including Mary J. Blige, Michael Buble, Sting and others graced us with their talent, the time came for the much anticipated lighting of the tree. At 8:57, Willie, Natalie and Al, along with Mayor Bill de Blasio and others, flipped the switch and the sparkle lit up the cloudy night sky in New York City.
I will visit the tree throughout the month of December, over and over, reminding myself how blessed I am to live in such an amazing city, hoping to celebrate next year just the same.
If you’re interested in making this part of your holiday happenings please click here for more tips and information. Happy Holidays!