Throwback: Eyewitness News reporter drags tiny tree to 1980 Rockefeller Christmas lighting, holds competing event

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Although this year was different because of COVID-19, thousands of spectators traditionally pack into Rockefeller Center every December for one of the grandest displays of the holiday season -- the lighting of the Christmas tree.

Forty years ago this week, Eyewitness News reporter Jane Wallace took traditional tree-lighting coverage to the next level... by bringing her OWN tree to the ceremony.

As seen in the report above, from December 8, 1980, Wallace buys her own Christmas tree from a local stand, picking a sad-looking tree from the back of the pile.

Jane proceeds to drag her tiny tree through the streets of New York, interviewing New Yorkers along the way.

When she finally arrived at the annual tree lighting, she plugs in her very own tree, and the crowd cheers -- ringing in the Christmas season. The size of the tree didn't matter after all -- it's all about the spirit of the celebration.

This cheerful report was taped hours before the news in New York took a grim turn -- former Beatle John Lennon was shot and killed by a deranged fan outside his home at the Dakota apartment building, a couple of miles north of Rockefeller Center.

Related: The murder of John Lennon 40 years ago on Deember 8

This year's Rockefeller Center Christmas event happened amid the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, and no crowds were allowed at the lighting of the 75-foot-tall, 45-foot-wide Norway spruce from Oneonta, New York. It is wrapped in 50,000 multi-colored LED lights and topped with a Swarovski crystal star.

Thursday marks your first chance to get a safe, socially distanced, up-close view of the world-famous Rockefeller Christmas Tree. Viewing began at 6 a.m., with safety precautions in place.
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Today marks your first chance to get a safe, socially distanced, up-close view of the world famous Rockefeller Christmas Tree.


Related: Do you need a ticket to see the Rockefeller Christmas tree? There are changes in place this year

The 2020-21 Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree viewing guidelines, approved by New York State and New York City and released earlier this week, follow social distancing and capacity control protocols.
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Lucy Yang has more on the changes to the most popular holiday attraction in New York City.


You can view the Rockefeller tree from Thursday, December 3, 2020, through early January 2021.

RELATED: The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree's 88 years of history

As an alternative, you can also watch a live stream of the tree from 8 a.m. to midnight.

To watch more from the Eyewitness News Vault, download ABC7's streaming app on Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, and Android TV. To stream, search "ABC7 New York" in the app store.
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