Editor’s Note: This blog entry was written by Matt Yemma, Eileen’s 23-year-old son who is now working in Manhattan
New York, NY — As I fought my way through the crowds to inch closer to Rockefeller Center I wondered to myself why anybody would venture into Midtown Manhattan for the annual tree lighting, yet every year -– and as the crowds I’m fighting my way through can prove, Rockefeller Center and the rest of Midtown plays host to over 100,000 people as the famous Rockefeller Center Christmas tree is lit the week after Thanksgiving. Most New Yorkers, and Americans alike, see the Rockefeller Tree Lighting Ceremony as the true kick off to the holiday season, but still, I was skeptical as I patiently waited to get towards 610 5th avenue so I could secure a press credential and get to my indicated viewing spot.
After getting my credential, and making it to my indicated spot overlooking the ice and the stage that was prepared for tonight’s tree lighting ceremony, it was easy to understand why so many people would brave the crowds and the cold weather to even get a small glimpse of the Rockefeller tree being lit. It was made even clearer as NBC’s host’s of the evening Nick Lachey and Ashley Tisdale introduced famed vocalist Josh Groban to sing a few Christmas tunes, including his smash hit “Little Drummer Boy.”
As Josh Groban began winding down I looked around the press area I was standing in, paying particular attention to the children around me since I was currently traveling with none -– having dragged my family to this event once nearly ten years ago none of them would join me this time around. I noticed one particular red headed boy who was enthralled by the lights and the crowd and the fact that he could see Joey Fatone from Nsync down below him. “Uncle Mike do you see, do you see?! It’s Joey from Nsync!!” The boy exclaimed loudly. Upon the boys exclamation every other child in my area rushed to the front to catch a glimpse of the former pop-superstar, who was indeed standing below us on the steps leading down to the ice. Standing next to him was the rapper Lil Bow Wow, who the kids were even more enthralled with.
As the show kicked into full gear and Mayor Bloomberg and Tony Bennett stepped onto the stage to light the tree at 8:58 PM the kids around me whirred with excitement. As the tree was finally lit, and the crowd roared with excitement, every one of them truly in the holiday spirit now, it was easy to see why so many families would brave the crowds and cold to see this year’s tree lit -– because whether you’re a native New Yorker, or simply a tourist, the tree lighting ceremony does not disappoint year after year, with this year being no exception.
Sure it’s an adventure keeping the kids close and keeping the whole family happy while standing in thirty degree weather for two hours to see this years tree lit -– but it’s a once in a lifetime adventure for most of these families, something the children will likely remember for the rest of their lives. So my quick advice to travelers with kids heading to next years tree lighting, or any other Christmas events in Manhattan this year: dress warm, carry a few snacks for the kids, always keeps the kids within eye sight, and wear comfortable shoes.
Following these rules, I’m sure any family would have had a great time at this year’s tree lighting ceremony. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and judging from the banter of children who were in the crowd with me it was easy to say they enjoyed themselves equally as much.
“Mom it was so cool when they lit the tree. And I really liked Ashley Tisdale!” Said one very enthusiastic young girl who was riding atop her fathers’ shoulders. A teenager to my right commented on how great it was that this year’s tree was lit by solar panels. Finally, I noticed what looked to be a fifteen-year-old boy giving his mother a big hug and thanking her as they walked away from the tree. In that moment it was very clear to me why hundred’s of thousand’s of people would pack themselves into Midtown for this year’s tree lighting: The crowds, the live music, and the spectacle of lighting America’s, and quite possibly the worlds most famous Christmas tree make for terrific family memories. Here’s to wishing that the kickoff to your holiday season was as memorable as it was for every family here at Rockefeller Center.