Rockefeller Christmas tree 2021 illuminated

The holly, jolly, best time of the year got a light-filled launch on Wednesday when the towering Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center was officially turned on.

The 79-foot (24-meter) Norway spruce, covered with more than 50,000 lights in a rainbow of colors and bearing a crystal-covered, 900-pound (400-kilogram) star, was lit in a midtown Manhattan ceremony again open to the public, in contrast with last year's virus-impacted event.

The lighting was televised on NBC. Among the musical performances were Harry Connick Jr., Norah Jones, Brad Paisley, and Alessia Cara. The high-kicking Radio City Rockettes were also part of the celebration.

This year's tree came from Elkton, Maryland, where it stood for more than 80 years outside a family home.

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Starting on December 2, the tree will be lit daily from 6 a.m. until midnight.  On Christmas Day, the tree is lit for 24 hours and on New Year’s Eve, it is lit from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.

The first Christmas tree was placed in Rockefeller Center by men working there in 1931.

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It will be donated to Habitat for Humanity at the end of the holiday season to be turned into lumber to build homes.

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony

A view of Rockefeller Center during the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony on December 01, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images)

With the Associated Press