1. ROCKEFELLER TREE
Every Christmas season since 1933, a massive Norway spruce (generally 69-100 feet tall) arrives at the Rockefeller Center. The tree is lit as part of a public ceremony sometime around early December. It is decorated with 50,000 multicolored lights and a lit star at the top; the current star is 9.5 feet in diameter and weighs 550 pounds. It is estimated that 125 million people visit the Rockefeller Christmas tree every year. Since 2007, the tree has been donated to Habitat for Humanity; the wood is used to build new homes.
2. Ice Skating
During the holiday season, many people celebrate by ice skating on the world-famous Rockefeller rink. The rink, sunken beneath street level, is surrounded by flags from the world’s nations and is overlooked by a fountain, the Rockefeller Christmas tree, and a statue of the Greek god Prometheus. Legend credits Prometheus with the creation of man from clay. He is a clever trickster, known for championing humankind, civilization, and progress. The statue was created by Paul Manship in 1934 during the Great Depression. It has come to stand as a symbol of progress and resilience. An inscription on the statue reads: “Prometheus, teacher in every art, brought the fire that hath proved to mortals a means to mighty ends.”
3. The Nutcracker and the Lincoln Center
Every year, the Nutcracker ballet is performed at the Lincoln Center. An adaptation of the E. T. A. Hoffmann story, “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King,” this two-act ballet is underscored by the music of Tchaikovsky. It follows the journey of Clara, a young girl who falls in love with a handsome nutcracker prince and finds herself on an enchanting and dangerous journey on Christmas Eve.
4. Winter Village and Bryant Park
A European-style Christmas market made up of over 120 pop up shops lines the perimeter of Bryant Park (located in Manhattan between 5th and 6th avenues). This is a popular location to hunt for unique, handmade Christmas gifts from around the world. Jewelry, art decor, home and health goods, sweets and food, games, and apparel are just the beginning of what this “village” market has to offer. The shops surround a free ice skating rink, along with rink side dining.
5. Radio City Christmas Spectacular
Every year, a 90 minute Christmas show features over 140 performers (starring the Radio City Rockettes), a live orchestra, and an extravagant set. The annual tradition began in 1933, one year after the Music Hall opened. Producer Leo Leonidoff and designer Vincente Minnelli worked together to create the original production. Though the plot varies year to year, certain elements have remained in every edition, such as the Rockettes’ “Parade of Wooden Soldiers” and the “Living Nativity,” which includes live animals and closes out the show.