Kicking off the holiday season: How to watch the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree lighting
"If there was ever a year that we needed a tree lighting celebration, it's 2020," Craig Melvin, "Today" show and MSNBC anchor, who is hosting the event alongside "Today" co-anchors Hoda Kotb, Savannah Guthrie and Al Roker, told USA TODAY.
But NBC's annual special, “Christmas in Rockefeller Center," which features the tree lighting, will still air live on Wednesday night (8 EST/delayed PST).
"So many of our traditions have unfortunately fallen by the wayside this year, so it is paramount that the tree lighting celebration go on," Melvin added.
Kotb echoed his sentiment.
"I feel like this year above all other years in the past is probably the most important," she told USA TODAY. "To me, this tree in the heart of midtown Manhattan is a symbol.
"This is going to show us that in this moment, on this day, with this tree, things are normal for this one moment," she continued. "Let's just take that moment for what it is and just realize that next year things will be back to normal."
During the special, viewers will be see performances by Kelly Clarkson, Jimmy Fallon, Brett Eldredge, Goo Goo Dolls, Tori Kelly, Leslie Odom Jr., Pentatonix, Earth, Wind & Fire, Dolly Parton, Gwen Stefani and Meghan Trainor.
The cast from Broadway musical "Ain't Too Proud," which won a Tony Award, will also perform a musical number and the Radio City Rockettes will make an appearance, too.
The magic of the tree lighting, Melvin said, will be nearly tangible through television sets.
"Every year (it's) such a well-produced show," Melvin added. "But this year I think the producers went above and beyond because of the circumstances."
For him and many others, getting into the holiday spirit this year is more important than ever.
"Listen, I'm not a Scrooge by any sense of the imagination, but I typically don't start listening to Christmas music or putting up decorations until the first or second week of December. We started listening to Christmas music right after scarfing down (the turkey this year)," Melvin added, noting that his family had put some holiday decorations up two days before Thanksgiving.
Though the 75-foot Norway spruce, didn't exactly look the part of the Rockefeller Christmas tree upon its arrival to Rockefeller Center last month, it surely will have been transformed to a state of sparkling holiday glory by Wednesday evening having now been prepared and decorated with 50,000 multi-colored LED lights and a Swarovski crystal star.
And if you're in need of more Christmas spirit after the lighting, NBC's “Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes – At Home Holiday Special," will air after (10 EST/delayed PST) and will be hosted by Kotb and Guthrie.
Viewing the Rockefeller tree in person in 2020
The way that people are able to view the tree in person will be vastly different this year from last.
Before the pandemic, anyone could walk up to the tree during its viewing hours, which would generally result in a crowd — not an appealing situation during a pandemic.
Viewing for the tree starts Thursday and goes into early January 2021. Guidelines have been approved by the state of New York and New York City to allow for social distancing and crowd control.
From 6 a.m. to midnight, tree viewing entrances will be located at points on 49th and 50th Streets and 5th and 6th Avenues with the only viewing zones on 49th and 50th Streets between 5th and 6th Avenues, which will be blocked from traffic.
To see the tree, virtual queuing will be implemented to manage lines.
Each visitor will have only five minutes to view the tree. Social distancing and mask-wearing will be enforced. Groups larger than four will be split into two pods.
Rockefeller Center's Center Plaza, where the tree is physically located, will be closed.