When does the Christmas season officially start? According to the mayor of Vigo, it began on September 12th, when he  announced that this small city in north-west Spain would be decorated with nine million LED lights, over three hundred Christmas trees and countless baubles measuring twelve meters in diameter – among other embellishments. “Beware, mayors of Tokyo, London, New York… the mayor of Paris and the mayor of Berlin,” he said, “we’re going to top you all.”


It is not clear if Bill de Blasio, mayor of New York, received this challenge but in any case he did not change his plans, and as late as November 28th, shortly after Thanksgiving, he inaugurated the winter holiday season with the lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree. Just as has been the tradition since 1933.


Psychologists argue that the reason behind all the colours, lights, music and joy that invade city centres during Christmas time is very simple: to make us spend money. With all these stimuli, they say, we become confused  and  throw more money away than at any other time of the year. It is fitting, then, that New York’s most famous Christmas landmark is located in a complex consisting of nineteen commercial buildings commissioned and paid for by the Rockefellers, one of the richest families in US history. In the 1930s, the bill came to one hundred million dollars, approximately 1.8 billion dollars in today's terms.


The Rockefeller Center is a city within a city in Manhattan, with more than one hundred shops,  over fifty restaurants and eateries, and a number of fitness centres and beauty salons. But it is the tree that attracts most of the attention during Christmas time – some 125 million visitors each year. It is almost always a Norway Norway spruce, typically fifty to sixty years of age and no less than seventy-five feet tall. In order to select the best candidate, the head head gardener of the Rockefeller Center travels across upstate New York and the surrounding states, even as far as Canada.


The chosen tree is wrapped in five miles of light chords and crowned with a 550-pound Swarovski star worth 1.5 million dollars. It presides over the plaza and the world-famous ice ice rink until January 7th, when it will be taken downchopped into pieces  and donated to a charity that will use it to build homes for poor families.