NEW YORK – The Christmas tree at the Rockefeller Center in New York City was lit up on Wednesday, marking the traditional start of the holiday season.
The annual lighting ceremony of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, now in its 85th year, featured musical performances by Diana Ross, Tony Bennett, Diana Krall and John Legend.
Traffic in midtown Manhattan around the Rockefeller Center was affected throughout Wednesday evening due to the event.
The 22-meter (72 feet) tall Norway spruce came from Wallkill, a hamlet about 75 miles north of New York, where it had grown for the last 75 years on land now owned by Shirley Figueroa and Lissette Gutierrez, both of whom are Puerto Rican.
The 12-ton tree is the first tree in Rockefeller Center’s history to be donated by a same-sex or Latina couple.
Another novelty for this year is the almost three-meter tall star which tops the tree, made of three million Swarovski crystals and designed by renowned Polish-American architect Daniel Libeskind.
More than 8 kilometers (5 miles) of cables with tens of thousands of lights will adorn the tree until Jan. 7, which will be lit daily between 5:30 pm and 11:30 pm, with the exception of Dec. 25, when it will be lit up for 24 hours.
After Jan. 7, the tree will be donated to Habitat for Humanity, an American NGO, founded in 1976, which builds shelter for those in need throughout the world.
The tradition was started on Christmas Eve 1931 by a group of construction workers who were building the Rockefeller Center.