Rockefeller Center tree lights up New York holidays

CNN  — 

It’s been one of the essential New York holiday traditions for decades now: The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.

The festive plaza – with its tree, ice skating rink and holiday decorations – is a prime destination for tourists and locals wanting the full Manhattan Christmastime experience.

The annual tree has a storied history.

The first tree went up in 1931, as the Great Depression was sinking its hooks into the city and the rest of the country. Workers lucky enough to have a job lined up for their pay beneath it. Ceremonies around the tree became an annual affair in 1933. The lighting ceremony was broadcast for the first time on national television in 1951.

The largest tree came in 1999. It was 100 feet tall and came from Killingworth, Connecticut. In 2001, the plaza was a source of solace for the city and the nation after the 9/11 attacks, with the tree decorated in red, white and blue.

Besides pleasing the wave of humanity that passes by it each, the tree serves a more practical purpose, too. After it’s taken down in early January, the tree is donated to Habitat for Humanity and turned into lumber for homes.

This year’s tree – 72-foot-tall Norway spruce – is from Wallkill, New York.

How to get there

Rockefeller Center is a complex of 19 commercial buildings between 48th and 51st streets and Fifth and Sixth avenues in Midtown Manhattan. Via subway, it’s served by the 1, 6 and NQR trains.