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Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting Kicks Off the Christmas Season

Stephen Lovekin, Getty Images

The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree was lit during the 80th annual tree lighting ceremony at Rockefeller Center in New York last night, and I was watching like I do every year. To me, it signifies the start of the Christmas season. Most of you know that Manhattan in New York City is my favorite place to visit, and I’ve even been lucky enough to be at the lighting of the tree once. Not to mention the many times I’ve been fortunate enough to visit the city during the Christmas season.

The “city that never sleeps” is never more alive then at Christmas. Everywhere you go you see extraordinary decorations like you have never seen. It is really a trip worth taking, even if you don’t think you would like the big city.

The tradition of a Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center started in 1931, when workers building the center put up the first one. Although there wasn’t a tree put up the next year, in 1933 was the first tree-lighting ceremony. Scouts are chosen to look for the perfect tree. Using a helicopter the scouts fly over areas including, Vermont, Ohio, upstate New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. When the perfect tree is found, a crane is used to support the tree while it is cut, and moves it to a custom telescoping trailer. The tree is then  transported through the streets of mid-town Manhattan to its destination at Rockefeller Center.

Many Rockefeller trees are given to Rockefeller Center by donors, which is considered a huge honor. This year’s tree is a beautiful 80-foot Norway spruce from Mount Olive, N.J., and home of Joe Balku. The 10-ton tree had been at the family’s home for years, measuring about 22 feet tall in 1973 when Balku bought the house. Now the massive tree is an impressive 50 feet in diameter. This tree made it through super storm Sandy, so it’s extra special.

The tree is lit with more than 30,000 LED lights and topped with the Swarovski Star that weighs 550 pounds.

The tree will be on display until Jan. 7. After that, the tree will be turned into lumber for Habitat for Humanity.

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