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A Tree Glows in Midtown: Rockefeller Center 80th Anniversary Tree Lighting

Come see the most famous Christmas tree in the world

Chances are you are decking the halls for Halloween right now, but before you know it, you will be busting out the holiday sweaters and dusting off your inflatable Santa. Yes, the holiday season is just around the corner.

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree. Photo courtesy of Tishman Speyer/photographer Gregory Scaffidi

While you might not have time to find that perfect gift to melt your mother-in-law’s (icy cold) heart, you do still have time to plan a bright and celebratory start to your holiday season. The annual Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting, the international symbol of New York’s holiday season, is scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 28 from 7-9pm.

This year marks the 80th anniversary of the tree lighting which means the organizers will likely pull out all the stops – celebs and extra bulbs – to make it an especially dazzling event.

The lighting of the Rockefeller Center tree was not always the extravaganza it is today. The first Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center was a lean 20-ft balsam, erected on the muddy site of what would become Rockefeller Center by a group of construction workers. Two years later, the first “official” tree – a handsome 50-ft specimen – was unveiled in its now famous spot at Rockefeller Center and the lighting ceremony was broadcast nationwide over NBC Radio.

In 1944, due to wartime blackout regulations, the tree remained unlit, as did every other outdoor Christmas tree in the city that year. Other notable dates in the city’s holiday icon: In 1951, NBC televised its first tree lighting on The Kate Smith Show; In 1971, Rockefeller Center recycled its first Christmas tree, turning it into 30 three-bushel bags of mulch for the nature trails of upper Manhattan; In 2005, Habitat for Humanity used the recycled wood to make door-frames for houses in New York, Louisiana, Brazil and India. To date, the largest of Rockefeller Center’s trees was the 100-year-old, 100-foot-tall, ten-ton Norway Spruce erected in 1999.

No news yet on this year’s tree but we can’t wait to trace its storied roots and bask in its spirit and glory. Watch this space for more details on when the tree will be erected, and tips to plan a visit; it stays up until January 7 – a whole year away! – so you have plenty of time to visit (right after you polish off that Halloween candy).

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