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The Margin: How to watch the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting for free

Thanksgiving and Black Friday are done; bring on the country’s most famous Christmas tree. 

Yes, it’s already time for the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree lighting ceremony in New York City, an annual holiday tradition spanning almost 90 years. While the COVID-19 pandemic closed off last year’s lighting ceremony to the public, this year, people are invited to come see the city flick on the 50,000 lights that deck the 79-foot-tall Norway spruce on Wednesday, Dec. 1. 

The celebration runs from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET outside of 30 Rockefeller Plaza, between West 49th and 50th streets, and Fifth and Sixth avenues for those near Midtown, Manhattan. Thousands are expected to come and witness the festivities in person.

Or, the main event starts at 8 p.m. ET on NBC during the “Christmas in Rockefeller Center” special, airing on your local NBC station or its Peacock streaming service. 

Those without cable can also stream the tree lighting on services including Sling TV and Fubo TV, which both include NBC and offer free trials. 

As for the live entertainment: the Rockettes kick things off with their synchronized steps, and musical stars such as Carrie Underwood, Norah Jones and Harry Connick Jr. are also expected to perform. 

But the main event is the 85-year-old Norway spruce from a farm in Elkton, Md. It stands 79 feet high and weighs almost 12 tons, and had to be trucked in a 115-foot-long trailer to make the 145-mile trek from Maryland to Manhattan. As noted above, it’s being wrapped in more than 50,000 colorful LED lights, and topped with a 900-pound three-dimensional star dripping in three million Swarovski crystals. 

The tree will be light daily through New Year’s Eve (the date the tree comes down has yet to be determined this year, according to the Rockefeller tree website.) The lights stay on from 6 a.m. to 12 a.m. most days, but the tree glows for a full 24 hours on Christmas Day, and stays lit from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. on New Year’s Eve.

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