Five seconds are enough to mark the final and most extraordinary step of one of the most spectacular events in the world: the Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony at the Rockefeller Center.
The countdown begins every first Wednesday after Thanksgiving day but the tree remains lit until January.
After this countdown, in New York, everything changes: thousands of lights light up the tree and the square, music and Christmas carols reach every corner of Fifth and Sixth Avenue, and a bunch of flashes, applauses and smiles welcome the arrival of Christmas in the Big Apple.
I've been to the tree-lighting ceremony at the Rockfeller Center many times but every time the magic wins you over.
On the day of the lighting of the tree, at precisely 9 o'clock at night, after a two-hour live national show always presented by Al Roker on the NBC channel, over 30,000 lights illuminate the world's most famous tree decorated with 50 kilometers of wire and a wonderful Swarovski star made of 25,000 crystals with over one million facets weighing 250 pounds and worth over 1 million dollars!
During the ceremony there usually are performances by Rockettes, the famous dancers from the Radio City Music Hall (located around the corner), famous singers, ice skaters and other celebrities.
Last year I was lucky enough to see the star from up close and to admire it in all its splendor. It had been placed almost at the center of the square, not far from the fir tree. It was simply astonishing!
The Rockefeller Center's Christmas tree stands tall in front of the world famous ice skating rink and the majestic Rockefeller Center is located in one of the most beautiful stretches of Fifth Street. In front of one of its buildings (which are 19 in total) there is the famous Atlas statue, on the other side of the street is St. Patrick's Cathedral which is a popular place for the Christmas’ mass.
The tree tradition has been happening for more than 80 years but every year a new tree is cut and places in the square, each time a Douglas fir big enough to stand tall and proud amongst the skyscrapers.
The Christmas tree is a tradition that dates back to 1931, when construction workers erected the first tree in the center of the square in the same spot where it is still placed today.
The first Tree was decorated with garlands but also with pieces of aluminum taken from small detonators that the workers used to free the site during the construction of skyscrapers. The story of the tree is written by the son of one of these immigrants, the one who chose the first tree. He was a young man who came from a poor town in Italy in 1901, without education, but with much desire to make it, even if it meant working in very dangerous conditions.
The first tree was in fact mainly wanted by Italian immigrants who wished to thank God for having work during the Great Depression.
In order to find a tree suitable for this purpose, dedicated workers travel to many states and examine hundreds of trees the months preceding the ceremony.
The fir must be at least 75 feet high (about 23 meters) and a minimum of 45 feet (14 meters) in diameter. When the tree is chosen, it is cut at the end of October and then travels to the destination on a very long trailer.