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.
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:
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.
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!
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! 🙂