Rockefeller Tree Lighting

I had been advised by several sources not to bother trying to go to the lighting of the Christmas Tree in Rockefeller Plaza. The RD of our house said that last time she tried to go, she couldn’t get within five blocks of the tree. But a friend from work told me that when he saw the tree lit, it was totally worth it. I  mean I’m living in the city! If I’m ever going to see the lighting ceremony it was this year, right? Plus, I got out of work at 4:30pm and was only about a ten minute walk from Rockefeller. Worse case scenario, I figured we’d get there, not be able to get anywhere near the tree, we’d take the train home and watch it on TV, and at least get to say we tried.

First glimpse of the tree!

Between taking a quick shower and meeting Jill for dinner, it was a little after six by the time we got even close to Rockefeller,  and the ceremony started at 7. I knew we were in trouble when we arrived at the corner of 50th and Broadway and couldn’t continue because of police barricades. We spent the next ten minutes being shuffled along the street like cattle in a terrible maze of metal guard rails that had been erected to keep us in designated areas.

At one point we passed the tree from a distance, but we were immediately shuffled along. Well, there goes plan A. We weren’t allowed to walk down the pathway that led to the tree, we were instead shuffled further down fifth avenue towards 49th street.

When we turned the corner, our bags were searched and we were directed down 49th. But before the tree was even in sight, we encountered this:

Yup, we weren't going anywhere.

I know what you’re thinking, why didn’t we just shove our way through? We still had hours until the tree was lit. With time we would’ve slowly made our way up there. I can tell you with 100% certainty that any sort of forward progress was impossible.

Plan B.

Jill and I approached an officer who was standing on the other side of the metal guards keeping everyone herded together.

“How do we get to be over there with you?”

If that’s what it took to see the tree lighting, Jill and I would work the charm.

We got advise from the first cop, who worked in the Bronx near where we lived, and Jill and I trekked back up the street. Somehow, we actually managed to get on the other side of the guard rails. I was sure we weren’t supposed to be there, but we walked as though we were and decided that if anyone asked, we were meeting a friend who worked at NBC.

Well, people did ask.  As soon as the tree was in sight a cop stopped us and asked to see our passes, which we clearly did not have. We spouted our story about meeting a friend and he directed us further down the street, away from the tree. We walked away alongside the tree and came upon a break in the guard rails where people (who were clearly VIP) were entering and standing right under the tree. Acting as if we knew what we were doing, we followed suit.

“Excuse me, ladies, can I help you?”


Even though we tried to sweet talk our way in, the cop wouldn’t let us pass and directed us further down the street. Next plan was to try the other side of the plaza on 50th street. By the time we made our way around there, it was apparent we weren’t getting any closer. At this point, I was ready for a last ditch effort.

“Let’s just try to walk by the tree again, get a picture, head home and watch it on TV.” It was clear we weren’t going to be able to see the tree from anywhere we were allowed to be, and in an hour we could be home with popcorn watching it like the rest of the country. At least we tried.

So we tried our best to go back up the way we came so we could at least walk by the tree. After flirting with three different officers, moving metal guard rails, sneaking around, and being escorted away from the tree (oops)…we were unsuccessful. In the 30 minutes that had elapsed, security had tightened even further and we were ready to call it quits. We decided to watch five minutes of the broadcast on the big screens they had on the streets, then head home.

We watched dozens of people with VIP lanyards pass the gates that were keeping us from getting any closer to the tree. When the broadcast started, I was feeling pretty bummed.

And then, a Christmas Miracle occurred.

Who should pass by us, right through the VIP gates, but April! My boss! She turned after I called her name and I asked her how she got through, but it was clear she was just as surprised as we were that she was able to! She was quickly ushered away and I whipped out my phone to text her. I found out that the security guard who worked at BDC was able to get her in!

Is there any way we can come too? There’s only two of us! I typed back.

In two minutes, April was heading back our way with the guard from BDC. They left through the gates and signaled for us to wait. When April came back, she signaled for us to follow and we passed easily through the gates that moments before were keeping us at bay.

We marched up the street, straight to the plaza, and there it was…the tree!

We went from not seeing a darn thing, to being VIP!

For the entire two-hour show, I couldn’t believe our luck. We couldn’t see any of the performers, but I didn’t care. Some were pre-recorded anyway. But there was a huge screen we could see them with so we were able to enjoy the show just like if we were at home, only better! My favorite part was seeing the Rockettes perform and having April point out all the girls that she knew who had become Rockettes…with any luck I’ll be one of those girls someday! All the performers were great, but I was really waiting for the tree to be lit!

After two hours, the time had come! The lights around the street dimmed, the tree began to glitter with white sparkling lights, and the countdown began!






I can’t even describe what it was like to see the tree light up in person, except to say that TV definitely does not do it justice. It was the perfect holiday celebration to kick off the 25 days leading up to Christmas!

After Jill and I thanked April and the BDC guard (profusely), we made our way to the D train to meet Katie, who had been watching from offices in NBC where she works! The entire train ride home we rehashed the whole story and how lucky we were. I still was in shock that we were so close to the tree. There were thousands of people there, the crowds were unbelievable. I realized that it was a perfect combination of being at the right place in the right time that got us there!

Happy start to the holidays everyone! 🙂


About MMM

Resolving to write in 2011!
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83 Responses to Rockefeller Tree Lighting

  1. paul says:

    Mere: let’s face it: This year, you’re just living the charmed life! Enjoy every minute of every hour, of every day while you’re there…it’s very special, and you deserve it. We are looking forward to ELF this weekend! When we watched the rockettes, we were convinced that if YOU were in the middle, the kick line and turns would be even more IMPRESSIVE!! love you kk

  2. mmgoodsongs says:

    For someone sitting in Southern California (and missed it on TV even) this story warms my heart! I’m glad your hard work and perseverance was rewarded. Merry Christmas and thanks for sharing!

  3. That tree is breath-taking- you were indeed lucky to score VIP access! I have been to New york once, and it happened to be at Christmas time- magical!

  4. Wow … you captured the chaos and close quarters so beautifully — I almost had a claustrophobia-induced panic attack while reading your post!

    I’m happy for you that it ended happily for you! What a memory…


  5. runtobefit says:

    Great story…thanks for taking us along your journey. I was rooting for you the whole way… 🙂

  6. you could totally turn this into some kind of children’s holiday book…quite a way with words!

  7. Congrats on being FP’d!!
    The stars were aligned for you for sure
    I was so hoping I would find a post about the tree lighting…so missing New York right now. Thanks!!

  8. Looks like you had a lot of fun. Congrats on getting so close to the tree and being freshly pressed.

  9. Way to work it, woman! I love it when people succeed in making the seemingly impossible happen–stories of perserverance–even to see a tree lit–light up my holiday here in Haiti. Happy Holidays from Port-au-Prince! Check out my blog to learn about holiday happenings here in Haiti!

  10. If our plane wasn’t delayed for 5 hours at JFK we would have attempted this too! 🙂

  11. Belle says:

    Great post!!

    It’s funny, I lived something very similar; just that I wasn’t so lucky when I first arrived even if I was really close I couldn’t see the tree! I managed to open the gates as the crowds were going crazy just seconds before the tree was lit! I loved it ❤

    And I was just checking around your blog, you have had cool experiences, it's enjoyable to read your blog; I hope I had started mine earlier and I haven't written about this kind of stuff, after reading you, now I know I should. Thanks a lot!

  12. mmontinieri says:

    Thank you everyone for such kind feedback! I’m absolutely thrilled to be Freshly Pressed! It’s an early Christmas present! 🙂

  13. Way to be persistent to get what you wanted! (even if it wasn’t ‘legal’)! You never know until you try! I’ve had similar experiences at concerts or events…sometimes you just have to ask security (or resort to flirting, as you did). And if all else fails, just try to look confident/important and pretend that you know what you’re doing.

    What’s the worst that can happen? You don’t get in. Who cares. It’s always worth a try…and makes for a great story as you’ve shown.

    Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!


  14. says:

    I love going to NYC during Christmas to see the Tree in Rockefeller center

  15. Wonderfull experience!

  16. enjoibeing says:

    i hope to see a rockefeller tree lighting next year. the tree looks huge and plenty of lights!

  17. Truly a serendipitous memorable experience!

  18. sb says:

    Cute story and what a happy ending! I love NYC in the Christmas time!

  19. karmajane says:

    Very cool! You got some nice pics and your story was intriguing. I’m so glad it had a happy ending! Happy holidays to you and your friends~

  20. That’s so awesome! I’m happy for you guys!!! Merry Christmas!

  21. Lakia Gordon says:

    I so wish I could have been there!! I know it was a blast 🙂

  22. Evie Garone says:

    NYC is always magical! Good for you! Congrats on being Freshly Pressed & on seeing the Tree close UP!!

  23. auntbethany says:

    Wow, what a great post! This brings back memories of living in NYC and going to see the tree (check our my avatar picture!). You are so lucky that you got to be a part of it. Both years I went to see it, freezing rain was pelting down, which only allowed me about 10 seconds to snap a picture and run for cover in the NBC store (however, now there’s a Magnolia Bakery near there, so that’s a good refuge, too!). Congrats on being FP!

  24. elmer says:

    is that tree any better than mine

  25. rtcrita says:

    Hurray! for you girls and your tenacity! I like the way you told your story. You had me sitting on the edge of my seat–“Will they get in?! I hope they get in! They deserve to get in! Her boss better let her in, too!” I’m so glad you got in!

    Great pics. Thanks for sharing that experience that I always wanted to do since I was a little girl watching it on T.V.!

  26. It’s definately more special when you are physically there to experience the atmosphere when it happened. Happy Holidays! Congrats on being freshly pressed.

  27. Kat-Cat says:

    I went to see the lighting of the tree a few years ago so I knew exactly what you went through. The only difference is I wasn’t as lucky as you. Although I didn’t see the tree as close as you did, it was definitely something you would remember. Thank you for sharing your adventure to the tree. And congrats in making to FreshlyPressed!

  28. myxscez says:

    merry chrismas every boddy!!!!!

  29. My goodness!!! It’s beautiful! I had no idea to be honest…I’ll have to put it on my list for next year! Thank you!

  30. I enjoyed reading your post. I like it!
    It makes me to reminisce those past Christmas in my life. I love strolling at night because I really enjoyed watching those sparkling lights on the streets and especially, those giant Christmas tress decorated with different Christmas decors. And it’s really fun to be with those people who are also enjoying the presence of Christmas.

  31. Very nice and entertaining post. I can’t help myself to imagine while reading your post that i’m also one of those who’s trying to get near in the tree. It really gives us a wonderful feeling if were able to achieve what we wanted. Well, I guess it’s one of your advance Christmas gifts already. It’s not in form of material thing but the joy you felt at that moment can’t be bought by money. Merry Christmas!

  32. Hey that is so awesome! I just came across your blog and surprisingly I just read your whole story. I never read that much. That’s an awesome story though! I have so many moments like that cause I’m like you, I push and try anything to get my way. Merry Christmas. Now one of my goals in life is to get as close to that tree as you did.

  33. songbird456 says:

    Was it big and did it branch out. Hee Hee

  34. angela says:

    hi powh menga frind ku dian!!!!!!!!good day good people of pilipines

  35. I don’t think I could ever get that excited about watching some tree lights being turned on, but well done for your Bond-like espionage work!

  36. Rock Kitaro says:

    Nice! Your very fortunate!

  37. Mormon Soprano says:

    What an awesome Christmas Miracle for you ! And, since you have shared your story and photos, it has now become a little Christmas miracle for all of us poor souls who will never have the Rockefeller Tree experience “Live”. Loved sharing it virtually! Thanks!

  38. Sunflowerdiva says:

    Sounds like you had a really fun time! That’s awesome you got so close to the tree! In all the years I’ve lived in New York City, I’ve never been down to the tree lighting. I just hate crowds, and I find it so much more enjoyable if I watch it from the comfiness of my own couch in my warm home. However, one always needs an adventure every now and then. Sounds like you had one! 😀

    • mmontinieri says:

      If you hate crowds it’s definitely not the place to be haha. But even so…it’s an experience I’m glad to have had…even just the one time, and it was definitely an adventure 🙂

  39. The pictures are lovely and capture the moment, wonderful! Rebecca

  40. Pingback: Traditions – NYC – Rockefeller Tree Lighting « Mbconsulting's Blog

  41. arielmin says:

    Wow, I’m going to be going to the city this christmas week and hope this isn’t a preview of what it’s going to be like! I’m sort of scared now.

    • mmontinieri says:

      Don’t be scared! Just be prepared to fight through some crowds! I was there again this weekend…it’s possible to get right up close…just be patient! Thanks for reading 🙂

  42. Nice post, made the mood of christmas…

  43. Hi Meredith
    Interesting to see the festivities and their interpretations from so many different angles. Where you aware of Christmas From A Muslim Viewpoint?

    Best wishes

  44. Pingback: A Very Ugly Weekend | …to be continued.

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