Rockefeller’s Christmas tree lighting attracts thousands


NEW YORK – Crowds of tourists and revelers roamed downtown Manhattan under strict security measures and a relatively warm sky to see the annual lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree.

Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio activated the switch at 8:55 p.m. , illuminating the Norway spruce of 75 feet high and more than 12 tons decorated with 50,000 multicolored LED lights.

"I definitely think it's going to kick off the Christmas spirit," said Samantha Fettner, a 33-year-old from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, who had been at the front with a group of friends since the afternoon.

The 85th annual ceremony was televised by NBC and included live performances by Brett Eldredge, Leslie Odom Jr., Pentatonix, Train, Harry Connick Jr., and Radio City Rockettes.

Matt Lauer was the co-host of the event, but the network announced on Wednesday that he had fired him for "inappropriate badual behavior" with a colleague. Lauer anchorwoman Savannah Guthrie made the announcement at the top of Wednesday's "Today" show.

Karen Calistra, of Chester Springs, Pa., Said it was the first time she had seen the show.

"It's something new, something fun, it's what you see in the movies," said Calistra. "We always wanted to see the tree lighting, it's a magical time of the year."

When asked about Lauer's absence, the 67-year-old said he never cared about him.

For most of his life, Hendrik Edler, from Germany, has always wanted to see the lighting of the tree.

"We came here just for the event, it's a dream since I was very young," said Edler, 39.

This year's festivities brought additional security measures after the terrorist attack on October 31 in which a man drove a truck on a bicycle lane near the World Trade Center, killing eight people.

The Christmas tradition began in 1931. This year's tree came from State College, Pennsylvania. After the holidays, it will become wood for Habitat for Humanity.

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