Rockefeller tree lighting: What to know about the Christmas tradition in NYC

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Thursday, December 1, 2022
Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree lit
The unofficial kick-off to the holiday season in New York City happened Wednesday with the lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. CeFaan Kim has more.

MIDTOWN, Manhattan (WABC) -- The unofficial kick-off to the holiday season in New York City happened Wednesday night with the lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.

This year's tree is from the town of Queensbury in upstate New York. The 82-foot-tall Norway spruce arrived in Midtown Manhattan November 12th.

Its star has 3 million Swarovski crystals and the tree features more 50,000 LED lights.

After Wednesday night's ceremony, the tree lights will now be on every day between 6 a.m. and midnight.

On Christmas the tree will be lit for 24 hours.

ALSO READ | History of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting

AccuWeather takes us back to New York City in 1931 when the first Rockefeller Center Christmas tree was erected.

While there will be plenty of holiday cheer accompanying the lighting, there may be some Grinch energy in the air in the days to come.

That's because of street closures that are sure to cause some headaches for motorists in Midtown Manhattan.

Starting with Wednesday night's tree lighting, the usual holiday season restrictions will return.

As in previous years, West 49th Street and West 50th Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues will be pedestrian-only zones between 11 a.m. and midnight.

One lane of Fifth and Sixth avenues will also be closed, as needed, to increase sidewalk space for pedestrians

Spectator entry points for the tree lighting open at 4 p.m. Wednesday on 5th Avenue at 48th Street and on 6th Avenue at 51st Street.

After Wednesday night, there will be a new set of holiday closures as well.

The city will, for the first time in half a century, turn Fifth Avenue from 48th Street to 57th Street into an Open Street for pedestrians on three Sundays in December.

The blocks-long restrictions will be in place from noon to 6 p.m. on those three Sundays.

When traffic is allowed to move, there will be fewer lanes for cars. The idea is to give tourists and local residents room to enjoy the sights.

But not everyone is excited about the plan.

"I think it's horrible to close it, because it's just gonna create gridlock everywhere else," cab driver Manny Antelada told Eyewitness News when the plan was announced last week.

But Mayor Eric Adams says the move is just what the city needs as it rebounds from the pandemic.

"This is the kind of bold, creative thinking that we need to ensure the city's comeback is strong, equitable, and inclusive," Adams said. "And to all those coming in from out of town, I have only two messages: Happy holidays and spend money."

ALSO READ | NYC Gridlock Alert 2022: Days to know this holiday season

Heather O'Rourke runs down the season's heavy travel days that the MTA wants all commuters to be aware of.


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