The Roots of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

Christmas is a holiday fraught with endless forms of symbolism and, as we approach the coming holiday, New York City prepares once again to welcome the most iconic Christmas symbol again, tonight starting at 7:00 pm. The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree tradition is entering its 84th year this holiday season, continuing a rich history of bringing light and the spirit of Christmas to, not only New Yorkers but, people across the world as well.

New York Times Associated Press Rockefeller Christmas Tree 1931
(New York Times/Associated Press) Rockefeller Christmas Tree 1931

Unofficially begun in 1931, the tradition began when construction workers at the Rockefeller Center site got together to purchase a 20-foot balsam fir decorated with garlands handmade by their families. Two years later, the newly opened Rockefeller Center officially began the tradition, holding its first annual lighting ceremony. Only three years later a second tree was added to commemorate the opening of the Rockefeller Skating Rink and, with that, a true holiday tradition was born.

As America entered WWII, the tree lighting ceremony had to be altered each year to account for the changing state of the country. The décor of the tree featured more red white and blue in order to inspire patriotism, and, in 1942 when war materials were scarce, Rockefeller Center displayed three small trees rather than the traditional single large one. This year also became the first year that the tree was replanted after the holidays to help conserve resources. While the tree remained unlit in 1944 due to wartime regulations, the end of the war saw the end of the darkness for the famous tree, illuminating it once more with six new ultraviolet light projectors. By the 1950’s the tradition and tree had grown so large that it took twenty workers nine days to decorate it on scaffolding surrounding the tree. This fame only continued to grow with the first televised tree lighting, with NBC highlighting the event on The Kate Smith Show.

Since its debut as a 20-foot balsam, the Rockefeller Tree has grown in both fame and size, with 1998’s tree being flown in on the world’s largest transport plane from Richfield, Ohio. The year after that, the largest tree in the tradition’s history was displayed, a monstrous 100-foot spruce, from Killingworth, Connecticut. In order to make use of the tree beyond its lighting, the Rockefeller Tree has been recycled since 1971. Originally used to make mulch, the Rockefeller tree began serving a higher purpose in 2006 when it was given to Habitat for Humanity each year, where it’s milled, treated, and made into lumber to help build homes for those in need. Alongside going to help those in need, the tree remains energy conscious, with a switch to LED lights in 2007, saving over 1,200 kilowatts of electricity per day.

This year’s tree is a 94-foot beauty from central New York, donated by Angie and Graig Eicler, and will feature 50,000 rainbow LED lights alongside decorations and the now famous star, first placed on the tree in 2004. Whether you’re watching from home, or witnessing the spectacle firsthand, tune in tonight and experience a tradition known around the world as the start of the Christmas season.

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Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Markets

New York City is a magical place and, even more so, during the holidays. Amp up your gift giving game by sourcing your trinkets from one of the many artisanal holiday markets in the city during this joyful season. Below is your guide to the top markets to help you decide where to begin your adventure.

Grand Central Holiday Market

Monday, November 14, 2016 – Saturday, December 24, 2016

Gather in historic Vanderbilt Hall for a market with a focus on all things American-made and locally-sourced. With a collection of 40 vendors, this holiday market offers an array of gift ideas like find clothing to add to your winter wardrobe, masterfully crafted jewelry, fine arts and a variety of glassworks. Now in its 23rd year, the Holiday Fair includes prices for every salary, allowing every visitor a chance to happen upon the perfect gift this holiday season.

Union Square Holiday Market

Thursday, November 17, 2016 – Saturday, December 24, 2016

Wander the winding aisles of this winter wonderland market this holiday season and discover the perfect gift for everyone on your list. Local craftsmen display handmade artwork, jewelry, and clothing while delicious food and drink options like rich Persian soup and hot chocolate keep you warm throughout your shopping experience. Unique gifts like crafted candles, soaps and skincare products intermingle with artisan olive wood coasters and slate coasters to create an atmosphere unlike anything else. Live music and a kid’s craft station also serve to keep all who come entertained.

Columbus Circle Holiday Market

Tuesday, November 29, 2016 – Saturday, December 24, 2016

Known as the most beautiful Christmas market in NYC, Columbus Circle offers a chance to find incredible gifts while basking in the majesty of new York mid-winter. Local makers display home accessories while up-and-coming designers showcase exquisite new pieces of jewelry. Add a unique new piece of winter clothing to your collection or try to solve a handmade wooden puzzle, all while enjoying warm food and drink and indulging in artisan chocolates and truffles. If you’re searching for the spirit of holiday shopping, this market is not to be missed.

Holiday Shops at Bryant Park

November 25, 2016 – January 2, 2017

With every shop enclosed in its own “jewel box” kiosk, entering each shop in Bryant’s Park is like unwrapping a present full of wonder. Within each of these 125 boxes, you can expect to find something magical for anyone on your mind this holiday season. Clothing from Brazilian brands like Bambusa and Natural Fashion present clothing and home goods made from 100% organic cotton, while decorative goods, and jewelry makers create sparkling masterpieces to capture the holiday’s magic. Traipse the alleys and walkways and try delicious food items and warm drinks while you uncover your next holiday desire amongst one of New York’s most awe-inspiring markets.

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Thanksgiving in the City

Thanksgiving is the time of year where we come together with family and think about everything we’re thankful for. But, on top of that, it’s also the perfect holiday to eat an excess of delicious holiday food. This year, leave the cooking to the professionals in New York City and discover some of the best places to eat Thanksgiving dinner here among your friends and family. We recommend you add another notch to your belt, just in case.

Balthazar

80 Spring St, New York, NY 10012

New York’s premiere French bistro is serving up a holiday favorite, adding a special turkey entrée to its regular menu for the holiday. A three-course prix fixe menu is also available at $72 to ensure guests get the best holiday meal Keith McNally’s famous restaurant can prepare.

Rotisserie Georgette

14 E 60th St, New York 10022

Nowhere in New York knows rotisserie like Rotisserie Georgette. A perfectly roasted turkey headlines this three-course menu rounded out by chestnut soup and an array of sweets like the restaurant’s special tarte tatin. $84 will get you the full meal, with children’s versions at $40.

Le Coq Rico

30 E 20th St, New York 10003

Another specialist in roasted birds, Le Coq Rico is serving up a delicious four-course menu with more than one bird at the forefront. With a starter of duck foie gras with cranberry chutney, your Thanksgiving dinner is in no danger of running afoul. The main dish consist of a whole stuffed turkey and will run you $85 for the full course.

The Little Owl

90 Bedford St, New York, NY 10014

Don’t let the size of the bird in the name fool you, The Little Owl is serving up big flavors this holiday season. A delicious three-course prix fixe with Italian wedding soup, gravy meatball sliders, roast turkey, lasagna, and sweet potatoes in brown sugar and ginger await you at only $95 a person.

The Polo Bar

1 E 55th St, New York, NY 10022

Stop in to Ralph Lauren’s signature New York restaurant featuring holiday dishes as classic and recognizable as the Polo style itself. Enjoy the a la carte menu featuring winter squash and vegetable salad, roasted turkey, pork sausage stuffing, and maple-bacon Brussels sprouts. Dessert offerings include pumpkin pie and a pumpkin ice cream sundae.

The Dutch

131 Sullivan St, New York, NY 10012

Stop by SoHo for a family-style meal of traditional Thanksgiving dishes including roasted turkey, mashed potatoes, sausage stuffing, sweet potato, Brussels sprouts, and cranberry orange sauce. Guests have the ability to choose their first course and have a delicious set of options including steak tartare, lobster chowder, pumpkin ravioli, oysters, or a fall salad. This delicious meal is $115 per person or $55 for children under 12 and includes an array of delicious fall dessert options as well including pumpkin pie.

Maialino

2 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10010

Add an Italian influence to your Thanksgiving meal with a choice of two four-course Thanksgiving menus. While one focuses on an Italian-American turkey meal, the other is a more dedicated Italian option, serving up a full roasted suckling pig. Other delicious sides like chestnut soup and Brussels sprouts, stracciatella alla romana, and cacao e pepe pasta help round out the $115 price tag on both menus, with a kid’s version available for $65.

Dovetail

103 W 77th St, New York 10024

Twist up your traditional Thanksgiving favorites with an inventive take on the holiday meal from Dovetail. A three-course prix fixe starts with a Fuji apple salad with wild rice or truffled pappardelle and continues to a main course of slow-roasted turkey with dark meat agnolotti or sirloin steak accompanied by beef cheek lasagna. This $138 menu has a vegetarian option as well as a $75 wine pairing and ends with delicious desserts like a cheesecake stuffed with port-poached pears.

Eleven Madison Park

11 Madison Ave, New York 10010

Elevate your Thanksgiving dinner in more ways than one with a truly spectacular four-course menu from Eleven Madison Park. Priced at $245 with an optional $135 wine pairing, this menu offers a selection for each course to ensure your taste buds truly enjoy their holiday. Start with chicken veloute with black truffles or scallops with uni and fennel and then continue on to a main course choice of a perfectly cooked turkey or slow-cooked beef with mushrooms and horseradish. With so many options for every dish, all of them prepared in exquisite detail, there’s no wrong choice for the best way to enjoy your Thanksgiving in the city.

*Please note, the hotel’s restaurants will not be offering holiday menus this year.

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