New York kicks off festive season with lighting of tree

Crowds returned to New York City’s Midtown Manhattan late on Wednesday for the 89th annual lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, officially kicking off the holiday season.

The event was open to the general public, unlike last year’s gathering when strict COVID-19 restrictions were in force to tackle soaring coronavirus infections.

The two-hour ceremony was broadcast live on NBC with star-studded performances, some virtual, including Carrie Underwood, whose pre-recorded performance of her song “Let There Be Peace” was broadcast from Nashville.

Other participants included Brad Paisley covering Buck Owens’ 1965 country classic “Santa Looked a Lot Like Daddy” and José Feliciano teaming up with Latin American boy band CNCO for a performance of his song “Feliz Navidad”.

The night’s highlight came when more than 50,000 multi-colored LED lights and a 900-pound star with at least 70 spikes covered in three million crystals were switched on, bringing the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree to life.

This year’s tree, a 12-tonne, 79-foot (24-metre) tall Norway Spruce, will be on display through early January 2022.