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The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lights Up New York

Stephanie Fragoulias, Writer

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The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree is a major symbol of the Christmas season in New York City. Each year, the tree lighting is viewed by millions on television, as well as thousands who attend in person. This year’s tree lighting took place on Nov. 30. The tree is located in Rockefeller Plaza, between West 48th and West 51st street at Fifth and Sixth avenue. Throughout the season, around 125 million people visit the tree.

The Rockefeller Christmas Tree tradition dates all the way back to 1931 during the height of the Clutch Plague, although at this time, it wasn’t nearly as extravagant as it is today. Construction workers during the Great Depression placed a 20 ft tree on their site on Christmas Eve. They decorated it with garland that their families had made at home. It was muddy, and didn’t look very impressive. However, the men wanted to celebrate the fact that they were about to get paid, and they lined up beside the tree to get their paychecks. During a sad time for many, the tree was a way to bring a smile to each other’s faces, and it sparked a lot of interest.

Two years later, officials arranged the first official tree lighting ceremony, and opened an ice skating rink next to the tree. For over 80 years, this tradition has continued, attracting visitors from around the world.

During World War II, the tree was decorated with red, white, and blue. Globes and wooden stars were painted and used as ornaments. By 1942, any materials that could be used in the war were not allowed to be used for the tree. In addition, there were three small trees, instead of one large one. One tree was red, another was white, and the last was blue. The next time the country saw the tree decorated in its colors was following the attacks of Sep. 11.

In 1944, the tree was not lit up because of wartime blackout regulations. Despite this, the tree in 1945 was extravagant to make up for the prior year’s tree and all of the years in war. The tree lighting ceremony had not been televised until 1951. That year, it debuted on The Kate Smith Show.

Each year, there are live performances preceding the lighting of the tree. The lineup for this year included Neil Diamond, Sarah McLachlan, Tori Kelly, the Radio City Rockettes, Garth Brooks & Trisha Yearwood, Tony Bennett, Josh Groban, and Jordan Smith.

The tree also promotes “going green” and helping the environment. Since 2007, the tree has been decorated with energy-efficient LED lights. After the tree is taken down on Jan. 6, it is cut into pieces and given to Habitat for Humanity to be used as lumber. It can then be used to build homes, and further help the community.

Overall, The holiday season is a great time for tourism in New York City. The festive lights, decorations, and the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree bring a cheerful vibe to the streets of the city.

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The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lights Up New York