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Christmas in Rockefeller Center

Christmas in Rockefeller Center

Photo Credit:  NBC
  • Premiered: 
    December 2, 1998
    (Click date to see TV listings for that day)

  • Network: NBC
  • Category: Series
  • Genre: Special, Annual
  • Type: Live Action
  • Concept: 
  • Subject Matter: Holiday
  • Tags: Christmas

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Plot Synopsis

Each year since 1933 at New York City's Rockefeller Center, a Christmas tree is formally lit as part of a holiday celebration that now also features music, singing, dancing and skating. The tradition of the Rockefeller Christmas tree dates back to 1931 during the Great Depression. Rockefeller Center officially began the tree lighting ceremony in 1933, when a Christmas Tree was erected in front of the just-finished RCA Building. The Christmas tree gathering was enhanced in 1936 with the opening of the Rockefeller Plaza outdoor ice-skating pond. The Christmas trees in Rockefeller Center have ranged from 50-foot pines to 100-foot Norway spruces, with 70- to 90-foot Norway spruces used in recent ceremonies. This tree lighting event was first televised in 1951 by NBC on THE KATE SMITH SHOW, with Smith pressing a button that lit 7500 white, green and red lights on a 75-year-old, 82-foot Norway spruce, followed by Smith singing "White Christmas." NBC again aired the event nationally in 1952 on THE KATE SMITH SHOW on Friday, December 12, after the ceremony was delayed a few days when the workmen didn't finish the tree in time. From 1953-55, the lighting ceremony was part of the nationwide HOWDY DOODY television show. The lighting ceremony was broadcast locally by WNBC for years, and in 1997 WNBC syndicated the program, making it available to all 11 NBC-owned stations and nearly 150 other stations across the country, for an event that featured singer Harry Connick, Jr., saxophonist Kenny G, skater Katarina Witt, and Radio City Music Hall's Rockettes. The following year, in 1998, NBC premiered this annual special for the first time, featuring singers Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, Jewel, Kenneth 'Babyface' Edmonds, Cyndi Lauper and Olympic-medalist skater Kristi Yamaguchi.
The 2020 Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree was lit for the first time on Wednesday, December 2, 2020, with live and taped performances from 8-10pm ET (live)/PT (tape) on NBC, in a broadcast hosted by TODAY's Al Roker, Savannah Guthrie, Hoda Kotb, and Craig Melvin. The 88th annual tree lighting featured performances from Kelly Clarkson, Goo Goo Dolls, Earth, Wind & Fire, Brett Eldredge, Jimmy Fallon, Tori Kelly, Leslie Odom Jr., Dolly Parton, Pentatonix, Dan + Shay, Gwen Stefani, Meghan Trainor, Cast of "Ain't Too Proud" and the Radio City Rockettes. The evening includes a special holiday treat with Clarkson and Eldredge performing together, along with duets featuring Parton and Fallon, and Trainor and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame supergroup Earth, Wind & Fire. Clarkson, Parton, Pentatonix, Stefani and Trainor will perform at various locations around the country.

In addition, select NBC stations from New York to Hawaii aired additional performances and more festivities in the 7-8pm ET hour, immediately preceding the 8pm national broadcast. The regional hour is hosted by EXTRA's Mario Lopez and WNBC's Natalie Pasquarella and David Ushery.

This year's tree at Rockefeller Center is a 75-foot tall, 45-foot wide Norway Spruce from Oneonta, N.Y. The tree weighs approximately 11 tons. It will be adorned with more than 50,000 multi-colored LEDs and will be topped with a stunning Swarovski star designed by architect Daniel Libeskind. The three-dimensional star is 9 feet, 4 inches in diameter, weighs approximately 900 pounds and features 70 spikes covered in 3 million Swarovski crystals. After the tree leaves Rockefeller Center, it will be milled into lumber for donation to Habitat for Humanity and used to build homes in the region.


Production & Distribution

  • Produced by Brad Lachman Productions


  • Rockefeller Center - Manhattan, New York USA - Map It!