Joy to the world -- the spruce is lit!
Justin Bieber, Neil Diamond and other stars joined hundreds of thousands on the plaza at Rockefeller Center in Manhattan Wednesday for a night of performances that culminated with the lighting of a 74-foot Norway spruce from Pennsylvania.
The program for the world famous tree-lighting began at 7 p.m. and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg helped flip the switch two hours later to illuminate 38,000 lights and a 25,000-crystal Swarovski star as a choir sang "Joy to the World."
U.S. & World
The day's top national and international news.
Among those who entertained the crowd were: Neil Diamond, the Radio City Rockettes, Cee Lo Green, Katharine McPhee, Carole King, Michael Buble and Javier Colon. Justin Bieber and Tony Bennett provided pre-taped performances, The Associated Press reported.
Bieber also debuted his new music video with Mariah Carey, "All I Want for Christmas is You."
Some 250,000 people were estimated in attendance and 11 million viewers were expected to take in "Christmas in Rockefeller Center" broadcast live on NBC.
The tree was cut down in Miffinville, Pa., where the Keller family had been tending to it on their property.
Debra Keller told NBC New York Wednesday evening, "It's just a surreal moment... We come in every year, we shop, we go for lunch, and we always end up at Rockefeller Center and say, 'Wouldn't this make a great tree?' And here we are."
Her mother Nancy said of their day at Rockefeller Center, "We have been treated like royalty. Everyone has been so nice to us!"
An army of gardeners takes care of the tree, watering it every day with a giant fire department-style hose. It's decorated with five miles of lights.
This year's tree isn't the tallest to stand in Rockefeller Center -- that honor goes a 100-foot tree in 1948. The event has occurred annually for 79 years.
The lights will be on until Jan. 7. After that, the Christmas tree will be turned into lumber for the housing charity Habitat for Humanity.