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December, 8, 2016

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Thousands gather under rain for Rockefeller Christmas tree lighting

NEW YORK--Thousands of rain-drenched revelers gathered in midtown Manhattan Wednesday night to watch the annual lighting of the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio flipped the switch just before 9 p.m., illuminating the 94-foot tall, 14-ton Norway spruce with 50,000 multicolored LED bulbs on 5 miles of wires.

The tree is topped with a Swarovski star.

The 84th annual ceremony was televised by NBC and included performances by Neil Diamond, Sarah McLachlan, Tori Kelly and the Radio City Rockettes.

Security at the event was tight. Spectators were urged to use mass transit and umbrellas, backpacks and large bags were prohibited.

The holiday tradition started in 1931. This year's tree came from the backyard of Angie and Graig Eichler in the northern foothills of New York's Catskill mountain range.

Angie Eichler said their family has come almost every year to see the Rockefeller Center tree — but she never dreamed it would be theirs. The tree will be lit every day from 5:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. until Jan. 7. On Christmas Day the lights will be on 24 hours.

After the holidays, the tree will be milled into lumber for Habitat for Humanity.

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