America's Thanksgiving holiday is nearly two weeks away, but there are already some signs that the Christmas season is here. That was the impression at New York's Rockefeller Center on Friday as workers carefully put in place and secured a 22 meter tall Norway Spruce tree that, when illuminated, will serve as one of the Big Apple's most recognizable and beloved holiday icons.
Amid a press of tourists, curious passersby and TV crews from nearly a dozen media outlets, a somewhere tired looking construction worker gazed up at a giant crane that has just put this year's Rockefeller Center Christmas tree more or less upright.
He wiped the sweat from his brow, and gave a status report on the tree, which is as yet unadorned with the 30,000 glittering lights and giant crystal star that will illuminate it on November 30. "It will be stood up and secured with four cables today, All the scaffolding will go up. Monday we'll start decorating and putting the lights on, getting ready for the lighting," he said.
Soon rather than later is just fine with Steve, a native New Yorker who stood nearby looking up at the tree and grinning.
"I think it smart to put it up early so it's up and decorated and beautiful for the holidays... It wouldn't be Christmas without seeing the tree in the middle of Rockefeller Center. So it's a beautiful thing when it's lit up and kids are seeing it for the first time. It's gorgeous. It's part of New York's culture," he said.
But the tree isn't just for New Yorkers. For Rick and Jessica, two twenty-somethings from Bloomington Indiana, it will be a highlight of a whirlwind tour of New York that will also include Times Square, the Empire State Building, and two Broadways shows.
"Of course, it's Rockefeller Center so we had to come by. And we happen to be here when the tree is coming up so that's pretty cool. Its' one of those things you hear about. You see it on the TV, you see it on the news, whenever anyone is trying to make the Christmas spirit, they are probably going to reference or show the tree. It's about the most iconic thing you can get, yeah! Actually, a good friend of mine who went to Fordham came with his wife last year, and they did the walk around here and he proposed in this area right around the tree. So it's very much iconic," said Rick.
For Carol and Noel from Palm Springs, California, it was neither luck, nor the sheer size of the tree that got them to this spot. "We smelled the pine needles. It was beautiful," said Noel.
"We picked the perfect time to come. We didn't even think it would be here yet. And I hope after decorating it kinds of brings down the branches. It looks like it kind of warped for a while in wrappings," added Carol.
For Peter Acton, a firefighter and his family, this day is an emotional one. The tree grew and was felled on their land in rural New York State. "The tree was from our house. It was growing there for over 70 years. It was part of our house. We've picnicked under it. We've enjoyed it so much, and now New York and the rest of the world will get to enjoy it as much as we have hopefully," he said.
For both Peter and his 11-year-old son Seamus, the fact that agents of Rockefeller Center found the tree on September 11th 2010 is also highly significant.
"It's tough to talk about but it's a little glimmer of hope in the healing process to bring my family a little bit closer and hopefully bring my family and the whole world a little closer too," said Peter.
"And it's like a gift from us to the city. I just feel relieved that it's over with and no more people have to come to our house because they make a mess so… I just want to get back to being a regular person," added Seamus.
A comment true both to the joyful spirit of the upcoming Christmas season, and what for many will be its inevitable exhausted aftermath.