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Crowds Flock To Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting: 'Always Been Magical'

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - It's another sign of life returning to the city.

Crowds gathered Wednesday for the lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.

With the crowd welcomed back this year to witness the lighting, it seems some couldn't miss the opportunity to celebrate a major life milestone beneath the branches of the iconic Rockefeller tree.

"I cannot wait," said Cari Coglianese.

"I'm Jewish. I love this stuff," Mark and Bonnie Levenstein of Commack told CBS2's Vanessa Murdock. But it wasn't the only reason they were having a special day: They were also celebrating their 40th anniversary.

Meryl Zalkin, Lisa Cole and Marilyn DiPetro told Murdock they attended to support New York and its comeback. They say they while the tree is spectacular, but they have a question: Why couldn't they find a New York tree? The one in Rockefeller Center comes from Maryland.

From its roots in the Old Line State to a gigantic stand in Rockefeller Center, the 12-ton, 79-foot, 85-year-old Norway spruce takes center stage for Christmas in New York City.

"To see this amazing thing, I didn't know it was a real tree," said Teonil Demoya.

Even unlit, it was fit for a selfie.

"The tree comes from dad's hometown, so I wanted to get a picture of the tree to send to them," said Alyssa Mickelsen of Blairstown, N.J.

Watch Vanessa Murdock's report --

More than 50,000 lights and a Swarovski crystal star enhance the beauty of the marvel of Mother Nature to dazzle and delight the masses.

"I've never seen anything like this," said Mindy Lawrence, from Missouri.

"See the star light up, it's the best part," New Jersey resident Michael Rodney said.

The Joyner family huddled in Rockefeller Plaza all night.

"We just moved here from Atlanta, so we wanted to kind of check out the tree and get a feel for everything and bring in Christmas the right way," Jamie Joyner told CBS2's Ali Bauman.

"We got here, what, five? We've been camped out," New Jersey resident Audrey Rader said.

"I've always seen the tree lighting on TV, and I've also seen the tree in the 'Home Alone' movies, so I figured I'd come here and see it in person for the first time," Midtown resident Chris Essien said.

"It was a dream I had since I moved to New York 35 years ago," Manhattan resident Anna Gell Smith said.

Last year's lighting felt empty without a crowd, this year that's not the case. Hours ahead of the lighting, folks already snagged their spots for picture perfect viewing of the spectacle.

"It's been a tradition for me for a few years now, so I was really sad when I couldn't go last year because of COVID, so I definitely wanted to make it out this year," Morningside Heights resident Amanda Ricard said.

Michael Brogdon, of Staten Island, is finally able to share the tradition with his three kids.

"Just seeing the Christmas tree light up and seeing the glow on my kid's face," he said.

"It's a chosen moment, always been magical," said Sharon Gorman.

Gorman and Bob Blozen came to the Big Apple to celebrate her birthday in a big way. Instead of candles, they took in the tree.

Jonathan and Rebecca Mose just started their four-day visit from Houston, Texas.

"We wanted to see the Christmas lights and our anniversary is Friday," they told Murdock.

Mose admits she loves Christmas.

"I always wanted to come to New York during the Christmas season, to see all the lights and stuff. So its perfect that we got here tonight for the Christmas tree lighting ceremony," Mose said.

"Did you plan it this way?" Murdock asked.

"She planned it this way and I went along with it," Jonathan Mose said.

The night was a check off the bucket list for a group of friends from Iowa.

"Love it, love it, love it," Ricky Harkin said.

"The three of us graduated from high school together, and so we always wanted to come back here, about 20 years ago, and see New York City," Annette Forest said.

Many in the crowd say after the year off, Wednesday's tree lighting felt even more special.

"It's better this way, I think," said Jessica Jeimeno, from France.

"It's magical," New Jersey resident Amber Hernandez said.

"There's nothing like Christmas in New York City. You can't beat it," Philadelphia resident Ashton Johnson said.

Daily viewing hours for the tree are from 6 a.m. until midnight, and the tree will stay lit around-the-clock on Christmas Day.

CBS2's Vanessa Murdock contributed to this report.

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