One of the brightest signs of the holiday season has come to light. The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree was officially turned on Wednesday night, at an event featuring celebrities including Idina Menzel, Lea Michele and Ne-Yo among the performers.
The iconic tree was illuminated in a festive ceremony, where spectators saw some security restrictions, faced street closures and bundled up for cold and blustery weather.
U.S. & World
The day's top national and international news.
Mario Lopez, Stefan Holt and Natalie Pasquarella kicked off the celebrations before "Today" anchors Savannah Guthrie, Hoda Kotb, Al Roker and Craig Melvin then greeted the entire country for the 87th annual "Christmas in Rockefeller Center."
Despite mostly cloudy skies, New York City stayed mostly dry for the festivities and temperatures hovered in the low 40s for those standing in the cold.
The 87th annual holiday celebration featured a 77-foot tall Norway spruce from Florida, New York. The 60-year-old tree weights 14 ton and was donated by Carol Schultz. The tree is wrapped in five miles of multi-colored lights and topped with a brand new, 900-pound star made of Swarovski crystals.
The tree's lights will be illuminated every day from 5:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. through Jan. 6 and 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Jan. 7, 2019.
On Christmas Day, the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree will be lit for a full 24 hours.
Throughout the night, there were performances from a star-fueled lineup, including this year's "Sexiest Man Alive" John Legend, Derek & Julianne Hough, Brett Eldredge, Idina Menzel, Gwen Stefani, Lea Michele, Chicago, NE-YO, Straight No Chaser, Skylar Astin and Alex Newell.
After the tree is taken down in mid-January, it will be milled into lumber for Habitat for Humanity.
Here are some historical facts about the Rockefeller Center Tree:
• 1931 – Construction workers building Rockefeller Center put up a Christmas tree, the first-ever Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree.
• 1933 - First formal Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting Ceremony. The tree was decked with 700 lights in front of the eight-month-old RCA Building.
• 1936 - Two trees, each 70 feet (21.3 m) tall, were erected. For the first time the Lighting Ceremony included a skating pageant on the newly opened Rockefeller Plaza Outdoor Ice Skating Pond.
• 1942 - Three trees were placed on Rockefeller Plaza, one decorated in red, one in white and one in blue to show support for our troops serving during World War II.
• 1949 - The tree was painted silver, to look like snow.
• 1951 - The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree was lit for the first time on national television on the Kate Smith Show.
• 1966 - The first tree from outside the United States was erected. It was given by Canada, in honor of the Centennial of its Confederation. This is the farthest distance a tree has traveled to Rockefeller Center.
• 1980 - For the 50th Anniversary of Tree Lighting, a 70 foot-tall (21.3 m) Norway Spruce came from the grounds of the Immaculate Conception Seminary of Mahwah, N.J. Bob Hope participated in the Lighting.
• 1999 – The largest tree in Rockefeller Center history, 100 feet tall (30.5 m), came from Killingworth, Conneticut.
• 2004 – The Swarovski-designed star became the largest star to ever grace the tree.
• 2007 – For the first time, the tree was lit with energy-efficient LEDs. They draw a fraction of the power that had been traditionally required by the tree, reducing energy consumption from 3,510 kwH to 1,297 kwH per day, saving as much energy as a single family would use in a month in a 2,000 square foot (185.8 m²) home. Hundreds of solar panels atop one of the Rockefeller Center buildings help power the new LEDs.