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New Yorkers & tourists flock to Rockefeller Center for annual Christmas tree lighting

NYC kicks off holiday season with Rockefeller Center Christmas tree lighting
NYC kicks off holiday season with Rockefeller Center Christmas tree lighting 02:19

NEW YORK -- New York City officially kicked off the holiday season Wednesday night with the lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.

Thousands of people gathered for the annual holiday tradition in Midtown.

It was cold out Wednesday, but that didn't stop people from waiting outside to make sure they had the perfect view.

"Are you dressed warm enough?" CBS New York's Jennifer Bisram asked Alexis Tompkins, from New Jersey.

"I think so," Tompkins said.

"How many layers do you have on?" Bisram asked Cathy Gracia, from Houston.

"Two ... I should've worn more," Gracia said.

"We've been here for three hours just to see that, so it was amazing," one spectator said.

"It's just the most spectacular tree you've ever seen and just to be here is so magical," another spectator said.

"We have to wait, of course. We want to see it," said Sarah Hussain, from Germany.

The enormous Norway Spruce has been lit with more than 50,000 colorful LED lights wrapped around the towering 80-foot tree with a 900-pound stunning star with 3 million crystals.

Thousands of holiday lovers from across the globe braved the long lines and cold, including Nick and Amanda Zeigler, who got engaged at the tree lighting in 2018.

"As soon as the tree lit up, I proposed to her," said Nick Zeigler, from South Carolina.

"It was very magical," Amanda Zeigler said.

Now, Nick and Amanda try to come back every year with their kids.

"You could come see it when it was already lit, but to see it light up and everybody cheering, it's unbelievable," Nick Zeigler said.

The tree lighting tradition at Manhattan's Rockefeller Plaza has been around since the 1930s. It started with construction workers and hundreds of lights. Almost a century later, for some it's become a tradition; for others, it was something they were able to cross off their bucket list.

"I want to do it. It's on my bucket list," said Alexis Tompkins, from New Jersey.

"It is on my bucket list of things to do, so yeah, I'm really excited for it," said Richard Conroy, from London.

"Since always been my dream since I was a little kid to come see the tree light up," one child said.

Security was tight at the celebration, both on the ground with uniformed and undercover officers and in the sky with drones.

"People come from all over the world to experience the magic of the tree lighting and our goal and our job is to make sure that they can do so," said Rebecca Weiner, NYPD deputy commissioner of intelligence and counterterrorism.

The tree will be lit daily  from 5 a.m.-midnight until Jan. 13. On Christmas Day, it will be lit for 24  hours.

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