The tree installed this year is 85 years old; its height is 24 m.

The traditional ceremony of lighting the lights on the Christmas tree at the Rockefeller Center in New York gathered thousands of people on Wednesday, despite reports that the first case of infection with the omicron strain of coronavirus was detected in the United States.

For the ceremony, the streets adjacent to the Rockefeller Center from 48th to 51st were blocked; traffic on Fifth and Sixth Avenues was restricted. The Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center – the largest in the city – was first installed in 1931, since 1933 a ceremony of lighting the lights has been held regularly, and since 1951 this ceremony has been broadcast on television throughout the country.

The countdown was led by outgoing Mayor Bill de Blasio. An hour before the lights were turned on, a congratulatory message from U.S. President Joe Biden and his wife Jill sounded in the square, in which they called the tradition of lighting lights on a Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center “a symbol of hope and optimism.” After the festive garlands were turned on, thousands of those gathered gave a loud ovation; some of them had been waiting for this event almost all day. “I am studying in New York, but I am from California, I have been waiting for this ceremony for five hours,” one of the spectators said.

The tree installed this year is 85 years old, its height is 24 m. 50 thousand light bulbs are hung on its branches, and the total length of the garlands is approximately 8 kilometers. On the top of the spruce, there is a star weighing more than 400 kg, decorated with Swarovski crystals.

Last year, the ceremony was held, but the opportunity to participate in it was limited. Those wishing to attend the event had to receive QR codes, it was possible to be on the square in front of the fir tree for only a few minutes. This year, most of the spectators wear masks, although some people came without them. Social distance is not observed. The air temperature is about 7 degrees Celsius. There are no additional measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus – vaccination checks or tests. At the same time, people are in a good mood; they have fun and sing along to Christmas songs that sound from the stage where the festive concert is taking place.

New York intends to celebrate Christmas and New Year on a full scale this year. On December 31, a solemn ceremony with tens of thousands of participants is planned in Times Square, although only vaccinated people are supposed to be allowed there. However, these plans were drawn up before the appearance of omicron, a strain of coronavirus, the first case of which was detected in the United States on Wednesday.