The more than 50,000 multi-colored LED lights that adorn the iconic Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center are now lit and Untapped Cities was there behind the scenes to capture the event. It took over five miles of wired lights to cover the 72-feet tall Norway Spruce which will be up until 7:00pm January 7th. The tree was lit after a star-studded ceremony filled with performances by legends like Diana Ross and Tony Bennett as well as the local PAL Cops and Kids Chorus of New York City. The lighting of a giant tree at Rockefeller Center has been a New York City tradition since 1933 (although the first tree went up in 1931) and this year the tree comes from right here in New York.

New York City natives Shirley Figueroa and Lissette Gutierrez are the happy donors of this year’s Christmas tree from Wallkill, New York. Figueroa, who comes from the Bronx, and Lisette who comes from Brooklyn, never thought that their tree would one day be standing at Rockefeller Center. Even though the previous owners of their property said that there was interest in the tree, Gutierrez says they “didn’t really believe it until Erik Pauze, the head gardener, came knocking on our door and we realized it could be a contender.” Figueroa recalls, “This summer Mr. Pauze came by and he was like, ‘We are really interested in your tree so can we water it? Can we feed it? Can we cut some branches out? Can we climb it and measure it?’ I said just don’t get hurt!” As native New Yorkers, they’ve always visited the Rockefeller Center Tree, so it is extra special to see their own tree decked out on the plaza. “I can’t believe she was ours, our baby in our backyard,” says Gutierrez. Figueroa looks forward to making continued visits to the tree. “We’re gonna come down in the next couple weeks and I’m going to look around and see different faces and different people and hear different languages and know this is the world’s tree.” Friends took some of the shavings from when the tree was cut down for the couple to save as a souvenir and they also kept some spruce cones that they decorated and gave to neighbors and family.

Setting up before the ceremony

Rockefeller Center Head Gardener Erik Pauze found Figueroa and Gutierrez’s tree while scouting around the Newburgh area about five years ago. He saw the tree in passing and had to turn around for a better look. Pauze was struck by how beautiful and full tree was, but thought it needed a few more years to grow. “When I saw it this spring I knew it was the year to take it,” Pauze said, “It was full. It was green. It was all the way around a nice shape and I knew it would look good in front of 30 Rock.” It was a smooth process bringing the tree down from Wallkill to New York City, where it arrived on November 10th. Finding a tree is a year long process and Pauze says he is “always looking” for prospects.

Every year the lighting of the Rockefeller Christmas tree is a star-studded event. This year’s ceremony was hosted by Hoda Kotb, Savannah Guthrie, Al Roker, and Craig Melvin, and featured live performances from artists like Rob Thomas, Martina McBride and Pentatonix, as well as music legends like Diana Ross, Tony Bennett, John Legend, and more. There was also a special performance by the Cops and Kids Chorus of New York City and of course, the famous Radio City Rockettes.

The Radio City Rockettes

The Cops and Kids Chorus of New York City

The biggest star of the night however (besides the 12-ton tree) may have been the glittering Swarovski Crystal tree topper, the first newly designed star since 2004. The newly designed three dimensional star weighs approximately 900 pounds and features 70 spikes covered in 3 million Swarovski crystals! The show-stopping tree topper was created by Swarovski in partnership with architect Daniel Libeskind who designed the master plan for the new World Trade Center. 2018 marks the fifteenth year that a Swarovski Star will sit atop the famous tree. The star is illuminated by Swarovski’s innovative Active Panel technology which makes use of LED backlighting to enhance the brilliance of the crystals. It was manufactured in Austria and Rhode Island and the whole process from design to completion took two years.

The lights were switched on by Mayor de Blasio at 9:33pm. Spectators can view the lit tree everyday from 5:30 A.M. to 11:30 P.M.; all day (24 hours) on Christmas; and from 5:30 a.m. – 9:00 p.m. on New Year’s Eve. Check out more photos from the lighting below:

Next, check out 9 Stunning Holiday Department Store WindowsThe Top 10 Secrets of Rockefeller Center and 7 Alternatives to the Rockefeller Christmas Tree in NYC