Holiday Traditions: Tree Lighting

Many communities, like Syracuse, hold an annual Tree Lighting ceremony in early December. Syracuse began its ceremony in 1914.  Below is a picture of Syracuse’s 2013 event, held at Clinton Square in downtown Syracuse.  The event also marks the opening of the Clinton Square ice skating rink.

Tree Lighting Syracuse

The first official Tree Lighting Ceremony was held in New York City in 1912 (not at Rockefeller Center, though – Rockefeller Center wasn’t completed until the early 1930s).  At least for those of us living east of the Mississippi, the New York City Tree Lighting Ceremony is the most watched.  The entire area around Rockefeller Center today is beautifully decorated.  It is also a lot of fun to ice skate below the tree!


Tree Lighting New York City

By 1915, this tradition had spread to over 1000 communities in the United States, including a tree lighting ceremony near the Alamo in San Antonio (a historian’s idea of the perfect Christmas event – history and Christmas)!

Tree Lighting San Antonio

Since 1923, the President of the U.S. has turned on the lights for the National Christmas Tree in Washington, D.C.  The first President to do so?   Not someone we usually associate with holiday cheer – Calvin Coolidge!


Tree Lighting Washington


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