New York Still recovering from the World Trade Center attack, New York City opened the Christmas season Wednesday night with a patriotic spirit lighting 30,000 red, white and blue bulbs on the Rockefeller Center tree.
First lady Laura Bush and Mayor Rudolph Giuliani jointly turned on the lights strung on five miles of wires on the 81-foot spruce. About 100,000 filled the streets between Fifth and Sixth avenues to watch.
"Tonight's tree lighting is a salute to our heroes, our traditions, and to the strength and unity of our nation," Giuliani said.
Bush wished New Yorkers a New Year "filled with peace."
"As we remember the loved ones lost and reflect on the spirit and courage that New Yorkers have shown in abundance, let us be thankful for our family, our friends and our great country," Bush said. "America loves New York."
The show, part of which was televised live nationally, included performances by Tony Bennett, Vanessa Williams, Jessica Simpson and Marc Anthony. Performances by Olympic pair skaters Kyoko Ina and John Zimmerman and the Radio City Rockettes were taped earlier and aired during the show.
Television viewers were invited to donate to charities benefiting the families of the trade center victims.
The tree came from the back yard of Andrew and Kelly Tornabene in Wayne, N.J.
The spruce, which experts say is 71 years old, would have been a young tree when the Rockefeller Center tradition began in 1931. That year, workers building the Art Deco complex placed a small unadorned evergreen on the muddy construction site.