The New York City holiday season is officially here -- now that the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree is lit up!
After making the 145-mile trip to Manhattan from Maryland via flatbed truck earlier this month, this year's 79-foot tall, nearly 12-ton and eight decades-old Norway Spruce has been decorated with more than 50,000 LED lights and topped with a Swarovski crystal star --- illuminating the night sky for the first time Wednesday.
The illumination was the main star of NBC's "Christmas in Rockefeller Center" live special that featured a number of star-studded performances from Carrie Underwood, Mickey Guyton, Harry Connick Jr., Brad Paisley, Alessia Cara, Norah Jones, Rob Thomas and, as always, The Radio City Rockettes.
NBC 4 New York's Natalie Pasquarella and David Ushery along with Access Hollywood's Mario Lopez hosted a pre-show before "TODAY" anchors Savannah Guthrie, Hoda Kotb, Craig Melvin and Al Roker emceed the prime-time festivities.
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Last year, the ceremony was closed to the public due to COVID-19 but viewers are welcomed once again to witness the annual show in person.
The city has significantly restricted vehicle traffic around Rockefeller Center and Radio City Music Hall again this year, closing some lanes and in some cases entire streets to allow for more pedestrian space.
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If you want to see the beautiful lights at later dates and avoid massive crowds on Wednesday (though that could still be largely unavoidable), the 2021 Christmas tree will be lit daily from 6 a.m. to midnight. On Christmas Day, the tree is illuminated for 24 hours. On New Year’s Eve, it is lit from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Last year, visitors only had five minutes to view the tree after having to scan a QR code to reserve a spot in a virtual line. While that doesn't seem to be the case again this year, everyone will likely be advised to wear masks and maintain social distance.
The threat of another winter surge of the coronavirus and news of newly detected omicron variant has New York City officials on high alert. Mayor Bill de Blasio and Mayor-elect Eric Adams on Monday tripled down on vaccine messaging and the city's health commissioner renewed the advisory for New Yorkers to wear face masks in all public indoor settings, regardless of vaccination status and previous COVID infection.
De Blasio said that the city has considered a new mask mandate, but said they want to "keep the focus on vaccination."