Monday, December 18, 2006

The Lincoln Center Christmas Tree

Seventeen years ago it was decided that there should be a Christmas Tree at Lincoln Center. And why not? Lincoln Center is a hub of music, culture and fine architecture all at the intersection where 65th Street meets Broadway and Columbus Avenue. It serves as a sort of elegant gateway to the residential upper west side even though technically the neighborhood begins at 59th Street.

The Christmas tree lighting ceremony takes place during an event called A Winter's Eve which includes entertainment from The Metropolitan Opera, New York City Ballet and The New York Philharmonic among other local artists. ABC has a hand in it, too, as the tree lighting is broadcast live on WABC-TV, hosted by Good Morning America's Sam Champion and even has Mickey Mouse on hand to flip the final switch. In addition, the Winter's Eve celebration and entertainment extends beyond Lincoln Square itself to various locations around the upper west side, mostly retail stores no doubt to spur the holiday economy a bit.

When the Lincoln Center Christmas Tree made its debut in 1989 and for the 16 years that followed it was the showpiece of the neighborhood and a holiday must-see. Framed by the arches of the Metropolitan Opera House with Lincoln Square's famous fountain in the foreground the tree was decorated with colored lights and illuminated ornaments in the shape of musical instruments. Oh, sure, it was smaller than the Rockefeller Center Tree but it seemed to fit perfectly in its dignified setting.

Then, last year the Department of If It Aint Broke decided to "improve" the tree. Gone were the famous illuminated musical instruments and replaced with what I guess are supposed to be snowflakes. Blue snowflakes. The tree has been moved to the very edge of the driveway which runs parallel to Columbus Avenue, perhaps to make it more visible to the traffic whizzing by. In its new position the tree blocks the view of the fountain entirely and seems to stand completely out of context from the rest of Lincoln Square. The blue lights make it look as if the tree is being lit by the same kind of gas jets you find on your kitchen stove--an unsettling image to say the least. If you look closely at the picture above you can make out blue ornaments inspired by Wedgewood, the maker of the official Lincoln Center holiday ornament. The Wedgewood blue ornaments are completely lost in the dark unfortunately but at least they provide some explanation for the use of blue lights.

A 50-foot Colorado Spruce from upstate New York was chosen for the tree this year which you'll note from the photo above lacks that ideal Christmas tree shape--unlike a Norway Spruce for example which is the variety always chosen for the Rockefeller Center tree. This will undoubtedly ensure the Lincoln Center Christmas tree's status as second banana for yet another year. (Note its rather bulbous shape in the photo above. Sad.) I just hope we don't have to wait another 15 years before they decide to "improve" the tree again--because this time it really needs it.

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At 2:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to tell you that was the most BEAUTIFUL tree I have ever seen! neighbor & I went to see the Nutcracker tonite and i loved the color of the lights and the decorations were amazing(she also agreed)...."to each his own"...happy new year..Tony


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