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Christmas at Rockefeller Center
by Chrysta Baker

Christmas OrnamentsThere is no feeling in the world that can compare to the moment you turn on the lights of your Christmas tree and see all the beautiful Christmas ornaments as they sparkle against the twinkling of the Christmas lights. Except, maybe, the feeling you get when that tree is the famous Rockefeller Center Christmas tree in New York City. There is just something special about being in New York City for Christmas, so if you do get the chance to be there for the lighting of this world famous tree and the opportunity to see all the beautiful Christmas ornaments, decorations, lights, and excitement that New York City has to offer, you should take it.

The very first Christmas tree placed in the Rockefeller Center complex was put there by the construction workers who were building the famous building complex in 1931. The Christmas tree was an important symbol for the construction workers who were thankful to have jobs during the dark and troubled times of the Great Depression. It was the symbol that America would carry on and that there was still hope that they would see brighter days ahead. That first Christmas the construction workers gathered around the tree to receive their Christmas Eve paychecks, with little pomp-and-circumstance, but it was a holiday idea that turned into a Christmas tradition. In 1933 the very first official lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree took place. That year the Christmas tree was decorated with more than 700 Christmas tree lights and Christmas ornaments as local New Yorkers and tourists gathered around to watch the tree light up and the ornaments sparkle, as a symbol of the American spirit.

Since that first official lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, many other traditions have followed and have become must-see events when visiting New York. In 1936 the Rockefeller Plaza outdoor ice-skating rink was opened and the very first Rockefeller Christmas ice-skating pageant was held. With the onset of World War II, the Rockefeller Christmas tree traditions underwent some dark times. In 1941, just after the Pearl Harbor attacks which bolted America into the World War II fight, the Rockefeller Center organizers tried to lift the spirits of New Yorkers by adding two live reindeer to the Christmas tree display which were borrowed from the Bronx Zoo and kept at the base of the tree. The Christmas tree was still adorned with hundreds of Christmas ornaments and lights, but it was the last year that lights were allowed to glow on the tree until the war was over.

Christmas OrnamentsBecause of the wartime restrictions on electricity, the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree was still displayed with Christmas ornaments, but no lights were allowed for three years in a row. However, New Yorkers still showed their pride and patriotism during this time and in 1942 three trees were displayed in the Rockefeller courtyard. One was decorated with all red Christmas ornaments, the second with all white Christmas ornaments, and the third with all blue Christmas ornaments. Even though no Christmas lights were allowed, the celebrations and traditions continued through these dark years. With the end of the war, the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree came back to its original lighted glory in 1945 and it has not gone dark again since that time.

In 1951 the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree lighting ceremony was broadcast for the very first time on national television, allowing people all over the country to join in the fun of watching this famous Christmas tree being lit and officially starting off the holiday season. The Lucky Strike Hit Parade Christmas Show was also broadcast from Rockefeller Center that year and the love affair that America has for the famous tree began. Today, the annual lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree is broadcast across the country just after Thanksgiving.

Today, millions of people each Christmas travel to Rockefeller Center to see the famous Christmas tree with all of its lights and Christmas ornaments. More than 30,000 lights and five miles of wiring are now used to decorate the Norway spruce which is usually anywhere from 65 to 90 tall and 35 feet wide at the base. Different decorating themes are used each year, some with Christmas ornaments and some without Christmas ornaments. Individual homeowners and professional tree growers send in pictures of potential Rockefeller Center Christmas trees to the head gardener for Rockefeller Center. Once the finalists are chosen, helicopters are sent to fly over the potential winning trees to determine if they are tall enough, round enough, and balanced enough to be displayed in New York City. In 2006, a homeowner in Ridgefield, Connecticut provided the winning tree which had grown outside his childhood home since he was a boy.

Christmas OrnamentsOnce the right Christmas tree is chosen for the honor of becoming the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, it is transported to New York City on a custom-made trailer in the middle of the night with a police escort. The farthest distance a Christmas tree has traveled to be placed in Rockefeller Center was from Ottawa, Canada, which was a 518 mile trip in 1966. The tree is then erected in the courtyard with a 280-ton crane and decorated with lights, ornaments, and surrounded by Christmas decorations. All of New York City is decorated with millions of Christmas lights and ornaments and there is no more festive location to spend the holiday shopping for presents.

So, the next time you are planning a Christmas shopping holiday trip to New York City, you must visit the famous Rockefeller Center Christmas tree to see its beautiful lights and Christmas ornaments. You might also want to skate a few rounds around the ice-skating rink at the base of the tree for the best views of its sparkling lights, beautiful ornaments, and surrounding decorations. New York City is a wonderful place to be at Christmastime and there are so many Christmas ornament and decoration shops to choose from. Buying all of your Christmas presents, ornaments, or decorations from New York City is a wonderful way to celebrate the holiday season in high style and seeing the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree in person will make your holiday trip that much more memorable. When you get home to your own Christmas tree, you just might be inspired to put a little extra effort into decorating the tree with loads of bright lights, treasured German ornaments, or handmade decorations as a symbol of your own holiday hopes and dreams this Christmas season.


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