New York City – Jingle Bells

Syracuse's annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony is held Friday evening at Clinton Square in downtown Syracuse.   Jim Commentucci / The Post-Standard


New York is a great place to spend Christmas. There are many wonderful things to see and do, but pride of place goes to the massive Christmas tree at Rockefeller Plaza.

There’s a reason why a lot of people consider this to be the world’s most famous tree. It sits at the heart of New York City, and people from all over the world come, not just for the tree lighting, which has become a huge event, but throughout the whole holiday season, actually, and it’s just an incredible atmosphere. You can’t but help feeling a warm glow when standing in its presence; kids’ and adults’ faces light up in front of it, the skaters on the rink below, the ice skaters, Radio City Music Hall and the Rockettes are right across the street and, if you believe in Santa and his magic elves , you have to think that some of that is sprinkled around Rockefeller Center every year!

This tradition began over 80 years ago. The tradition has very humble roots . In 1931, in the middle of the Great Depression, a group of construction workers who were working on the site, erected a tree, basically, in a muddy field, and two years later was when the formal tree lighting ceremony began, when a Rockefeller Center publicist organized the first tree lighting ceremony in 1933.

Of course, the tree is changed every year. There’s been a lot of them . The tallest was 110 feet, a pretty tall tree, one of the most famous, though, was selected from a small town in Vermont near the Canadian border, and a new road had to be bulldozed just to get to that tree, and it made this historic trip down to Manhattan from the Canadian border; 375 miles!

The Christmas season officially begins in New York City when Santa Claus joins the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. For most New Yorkers there is a more important event: the lighting of the Christmas tree in the Rockefeller Plaza. Every year, many people come to the Plaza a day early in order to guarantee a good view of this spectacular ceremony. Millions more around the world follow it on TV. The overall effect is breathtaking : 30,000 lights, as well as a star designed by Swarovski, suddenly come to life.

The tree is changed every year and finding the right one is a major challenge. So too is transporting it to New York in a vast container, with traffic coming to a standstill .

Adapted from Speak Up magazine

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