Tonight at 8 p.m. ET, NBC will air the 81st annual Christmas in Rockefeller Center celebration. For the past 81 years New Yorkers and tourists have gathered at Rockefeller Center to watch the lighting of the famed Christmas tree. This year's event will be hosted by "Today Show" anchors Matt Lauer, Savannah Guthrie, Al Roker and Natalie Morales. Celebrity performances at tonight's event include Kelly Clarkson, Mary J. Blige, Toni Braxton, Mariah Carey, Goo Goo Dolls, Ariana Grande, Jewel and Kenny "Baby Face" Edmonds.

The tree to be lit up in fantastic brightly colored lights stands at 76-feet tall and 47-feet in diameter. The Norway Spruce weighs 12 tons and will be strung with LED lights and a 9 ½ foot wide LED crystal star from Swarovski. The first Christmas tree to be lit in Rockefeller Center was erected during the Great Depression in 1933. The tree was covered in 700 lights and stood in front of the RCA building which is the GE building today.

The tree lighting ceremony began to draw a crowd in 1936 when outdoor ice skating rink was opened in Rockefeller plaza. The tree lighting was first televised by NBC in 1951 on the "Kate Smith Show." The tree lighting was also part of the "Howdy Doody" TV show from 1953-1955. NBC.com calls the tree lighting a "star studded ... extravaganza." This holiday tradition is meant to raise spirits and get New Yorkers and the rest of the country in the holiday spirit in a way other than promoting sales. To view a live stream of tonight's festivities follow the link.

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