This winter there is no better way to kick off the start of the holiday season than with a tree lighting ceremony - and you do not have to miss out on the experience if you are traveling. All over America the tallest evergreens are chosen to be the beacon of Christmas spirit - we string them up with lights, put them in the middle of a square, and admire their sentimental charm. Most tree lighting ceremonies are not televised, so the only way you will get to see these trees light up for the first time is in person. Here are the tree lighting ceremonies you will not want to miss, in no particular order:
1. Delray Beach Christmas Tree, Delray Beach, Florida
If you feel like escaping to the warmth, Delray Beach Florida can provide that - and a tree lighting ceremony with a 100-foot (man-made) tree on the beach. The “Famous 100 Foot Christmas Tree” will be lit on December 4, and Santa will be arriving via helicopter. The tree itself is magnificent, named one of the best trees in the USA in 2012, and complete with 39,500 ornaments and an 18-foot tall star at its tip. After the lighting ceremony you can go inside of the tree where you can watch animated elves performing different Christmas scenes. The tree lighting ceremony is more like a holiday party, with a carousel and rides for kids, Christmas music playing overhead, and an outdoor ice skating rink.
2. NYC Rockefeller Tree, New York City, New York
This year’s 85-foot Norway spruce from Pennsylvania will attract thousands of holiday enthusiasts, but they are not just coming to see the lights turn on. On December 3, the Christmas tree lighting ceremony will be a two-hour long spectacle from 7pm to 9pm, with performances by Lady Gaga, Tony Bennett, Idina Menzel, LeAnn Rimes, and more. The atmosphere will make certain that you are sucked into the Christmas spirit - the plaza is full of toy soldiers and angels, while carolers roam around the streets and the tree is decorated with a blinding 30,000 multi-colored LEDS. The lights are energy-efficient of course, since they will need to stay bright until the last day the tree is up, January 7.
3. The National Christmas Tree, Washington, DC.
December 4 will see the lighting of our National Christmas Tree in Washington, DC. The first National Tree was lit by president Calvin Coolidge 92 years ago. A Marine quartet performed as a 48-foot fir stood aglow with 2500 green, red, and white bulbs. This year’s tree brings with it not just a holiday spirit, but a patriotic one. There will be performances by Rita Wilson, Ne-Yo, The Tenors, Patti LaBelle, and Fifth Harmony. Military bands will also perform, before the President addresses the nation and world with a message of peace before the yuletide season.
4. The US Capitol Christmas Tree, Washington, DC
Although this tree lighting event is also in Washington DC, it is altogether different than the National Christmas Tree. The Capitol Tree is also called “The People’s Tree,” and comes from a different National Forest each year. This year’s tree comes from Chippewa National Forest in Cass Lake, Minnesota, and traveled 2,700 miles to the west lawn of the US Capitol. The white spruce will be lit up in a ceremony on December 2 at 5pm, and will bear thousands of ornaments made by children and people from Minnesota communities. The tree made 30 stops along its way to Washington, showing off the natural beauty of Minnesota as well as bringing a spirit of goodwill to every town it visited. The tree will stay lit from sundown to 11pm until the New Year.
5. Zilker Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony, Austin, Texas
Although Texas doesn’t see much snow, they still enjoy decorating their Christmas trees for the holiday - and everything really is bigger in Texas. The Zilker tree is man-made, so it stands at an impressive 120 feet wide and 150 feet tall, with a star atop that is over ten feet wide. Visitors can eat kettle corn and walk under the Austin Trail of Lights before seeing the tree light up with over 3,300 lights. And the lucky person who gets to turn on those thousands of tree lights isn’t the mayor or an electrician, but whichever kid wins the city-wide tree coloring contest. The event will get you into the holiday spirit, and not just because of the carolers - it also encourages its attendees to bring new toys to donate to Operation Blue Santa, which the Austin Police set up to bring food and toys to families in need.