Many people would have you believe that Christmas season starts the minute Mariah Carey's classic "All I Want For Christmas Is You" re-enters the charts, which increasingly happens earlier and earlier in November. But New Yorkers know that there shall be no holiday season festivities until the ceremonial lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree takes place. Because all I want for Christmas is to see the big tree use all the electricity.
Last night, Christmas season officially kicked off in the city as the tree was strung with more than 50,000 colored LEDs and topped with a 900 pound Swarovski crystal star made with three million crystals. It was lit just before 10 p.m. on Wednesday during a star-studded televised ceremony, led by Mayor Bill de Blasio and Tishman Speyer President/CEO Rob Speyer.
There were performances from the likes of Alessia Cara, Harry Connick Jr., José Feliciano & CNCO, Mickey Guyton, Norah Jones, Brad Paisley, Pentatonix, Rob Thomas, Carrie Underwood, the Radio City Rockettes, and the cast from Broadway musical Come From Away. There was also a televised message from President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden, who said they were "honored to be part of this special New York City tradition, a great American tradition."
This year's tree, an 80-year-old, 79-foot Norway Spruce, came to us from the home of Julie and Devon Price in Elkton, Maryland. It was cut down on November 11th, arrived in NYC on November 13th, and will remain there through January 16th, 2022, after which it will be turned into lumber to help a family build a Habitat for Humanity home.
The Rockefeller Center tree tradition began in 1931, when construction workers decorated a 20-foot balsam fir. The first formal Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting Ceremony took place two years later. In 1936, two trees were erected; in 1942, three trees were erected, with one decorated in red, one in white, and one in blue, in honor of soldiers fighting in WWII. In 1949, the tree was painted silver to look like snow. 1951 was the first time the lighting ceremony was broadcast on TV. In 1999, the largest tree in Rockefeller Center history—100 feet tall—was erected.
Last year, the lighting ceremony was closed to the public because of the pandemic. And this year marks the first time a tree has come from Maryland, which is slightly less exciting than all those other firsts, but you gotta take what you get.