Joy to the World: the 2017 Rockefeller Center Christmas tree lighting

Amid the economic wreckage of the Great Depression, the oil-rich Rockefeller family still had plenty of money. One massive project they financed was Rockefeller Center, a giant complex of office buildings (and Radio City Music Hall) in Midtown Manhattan. Many of the buildings are noteworthy for their “art deco” style artwork, both inside and out. The centerpiece of the project is the 66 story RCA Building, home to the NBC Studios and up on the 65th floor, the famous Rainbow Room restaurant.

In New York City, Christmas really wouldn’t be Christmas without the Rockefeller Center tree. The very first tree was set up by construction workers: on December 24, 1931 they decorated it with strings of cranberries, garlands of paper, and even a few tin cans! The first official tree was set up in 1933, with pride of place in front of the RCA building. A skating rink was added to the sunken plaza in front of the tree in 1936, adding to the festive atmosphere. The tree is usually around 80 feet tall. The 1999 tree was the tallest of them all, at 100 feet; due to the logistics of Manhattan’s streets, that’s the most tree you can get to the site. Each year, an estimated 125 million visitors stop by to see the tree and other decorations, notably Valerie Clarebout’s wire angels.

Every year in late November or early December, New York’s holiday season gets a big kick-off with the Rockefeller Center tree lighting ceremony. For over 20 years it’s been broadcast on national television and we’ve posted the 2017 ceremony for you below. For the tree lighting, NBC’s Al Roker, Savannah Guthrie, Hoda Kotb, and Lester Holt are joined by New York City mayor Bill de Blasio and representatives of the company that owns the complex. Once the lights are on, “Joy to the World” fills the air.

Is visiting Rockefeller Center on your Christmastime bucket list? Have you been there already? Let’s hear all about it in the comments at Facebook. Don’t forget to like and share!