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Monday, December 16, 2013

Rockefeller Christmas Tree

Like many visitors and locals alike, I did my annual trek to see the tree. It looks like the same tree, they look like the same lights and yet, for some reason, like many thousands, this has to be part of my annual December ritual. It's almost a pilgrimage: you come up either 5th or 6th Avenue, head to 49th or 50th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues, battling shoppers, tourists and Radio City audiences, pushing your way through until, you turn the corner and then, as the "Hallelujah Chorus" swells in your head: there it is:

Rockefeller Center, New York City
It was cloudy, the lights do not shine as brilliantly (now that the tree is using LED lights, according to Wikepedia), yet, I loved looking at it just the same. I think of the workers during the Depression that erected the first tree back in the early 1930's and how that tradition has been carried out almost every year since.

I mentioned to a friend I had just gone to see the tree. New to the city, she said she had seen the tree-lighting ceremony on TV in the past but did that was about it. I had mentioned that it seems like the same tree every year, yet, we go see it every year. I told her that it's a big thing here: scouting for the tree, when it's cut down, transported, erected and finally, the lighting, each step chronicled on local news stations. Her eyes widened: "You mean, it's a real tree?" "Yes, of course, that's the fun part." "Oh, now I have to go see it." Now, you get it. Welcome to NYC.

But after you have seen the tree, jostled for space to take pictures and gone inside to warm up and perhaps get a hot beverage, what's next? To break up the monotony, plan your trip: the Radio City show, a Broadway show, shopping or other activities. Peeping the decorations of all the stores can take up a good hour as you go from display to display down 5th Avenue. (The American Girl Place, Sony Wonder, Nintendo World, the Lego Store, the Apple Store and FAO Schwartz are all nearby).

For the more religious observant, St. Patrick's Cathedral is on 5th Avenue and East 50th, although at the time of this writing, it is under construction. And if you are a walker, head 12 blocks south downtown and take in Grand Central Station (a topic for another blog entry).

The lights go out nowadays, going off at 11:30PM every night, unlike the good old days when we locals would go at 1AM after the tourists were scared off being in Manhattan late at night. This is adding to the crowds. Time it: go before a show lets out, or early in December or even after January 1; the tree is up until @January 6. www.rockefellercenter.com/tour-and-explore/the-tree-at-rockefeller-center/.  Subway: E, M to 5th Ave/53rd St; B,D,F,M to 47-50th Rock Center; Bus: M5, M7, M50.