The two-hour tree lighting celebration aired last night on NBC. Mayor Michael Bloomberg hit the button at 8:55 p.m. ET and the tree blazed up, with flashing white bulbs blinking among the colorful lights. But in the weeks leading up to that, an incredible amount of work went into getting the tree ready for its big debut.
The 2010 Rockefeller Center tree is a Norway spruce standing 74 feet, one of the tallest such trees in the U.S. The green giant shimmers with 30,000 multicolored LED lights and is topped with a Swarovski crystal star, glowing with yet more LEDs. Though the star weighs in at a whopping 550 pounds, it looks nearly dainty atop the massive tree.
Getting Rockefeller Center and the tree spruced up for the big event takes weeks of preparation. After being installed mid-month, the tree is shrouded in scaffolding as it gets thinned out, pruned and prepared for lighting. Cables and ladders for the decorating crew rise inside the tree. Climbing several stories up on the scaffolding, technicians wrap every single branch with lights -- by hand. And you thought trimming your tree was hard work!
Meanwhile, twinkling wire-sculpture angels gather to line the Center's Channel Gardens. Huge snowflake illuminations are projected onto the surrounding buildings, while the gilded statue of Prometheus gets a special burst of light at the foot of the tree.
John Ellar, a moving light technician for Unlimited Visibility Lighting Design, is part of the team behind the Center's swirling snowflakes. His advice for a terrific light display? Buy twice as many strings of lights as you might have estimated.
"You need more than you think," he counseled Holidash. "If you think you need five strings, buy ten strings." (To browse a variety of holiday light styles, click here.)
"For a simple eight-foot-tall tree in my house, we have eleven or twelve sets [of lights]," explained Ellar. "I like sometimes to have just the tree on in the room and nothing else -- the ambient light from the tree is pretty cool."
Even after working on the ceremony for the past nine years, Ellar gets caught up in the moment of the lighting. "It certainly is the start of my holiday season," he admits. "It kicks off my Christmas."
FDNY veteran Peter Acton and his family were tracked down by Rockefeller Center tree scout Erik Pauze, who was on the lookout for this year's tree; Pauze approached the Actons, who happily donated the spruce as a gift to the city. During the lighting ceremony, Peter Acton described the tree as way of expressing thanks to everyone who supported the workers at Ground Zero.
After the holiday season, the tree will be passed on to Habitat for Humanity for use in home construction.
Pop pixie Kylie Minogue wiggled her way through "Santa Baby" in a furry, hooded white cape, while hearthrob Josh Groban crooned more traditional carols.
Jessica Simpson sang a duet with Petty Officer 3rd Class John Wesley Britt, who had auditioned for Simpson during her recent visit to the USS Harry S. Truman. Other stars at the mike included reality TV favorite Susan Boyle, Charice (recently seen on "Glee"), and mezzo-soprano Katherine Jenkins.
Longstanding R&B group Boyz II Men cheered the dazzling display. After their turn on stage, they told Holidash that they were feeling inspired to step up their own holiday decorations. Shawn Stockman said, "Hanukkah is the Festival of Lights... so I'd better do that crib up!"
For members of the live audience, the lighting ceremony can spark romance as well as holiday cheer. Ten years ago, Ronald Bush proposed to his wife, Myra, at Rockefeller Center as the lights blinked on. Every year, the pair returns for the tree lighting; by now, they have a routine down pat.
For the best and most comfortable viewing, Myra recommends arriving a few hours early, armed with chairs, movies and a book, then staking out a spot with a good view of one of the mounted video screens. Fondly touching hands, the couple settled in for their unique tradition.
The Rockefeller Center tree will be on display until Jan. 7.