71st annual Macy’s Tree Lighting on Nov. 18 at 7 p.m

Santa’s photo packages start at $27.99, and reservations can be made online. Hours start out light and get longer the closer it gets to Christmas; some days, Santa will be there for more than 12 hours.



Through 2014, the grand illumination ceremony occurred on Thanksgiving night, no matter the weather. Since the 1980s, it has been regularly aired on television station WSB-TV, which now shows it in high definition. Christmas carolsare sung by various music celebrities and local groups, and at least one is usually chimed by a bell choir. The tree is lit near the very end of the hour on the highest note of “O Holy Night” (during the line “O Night Divine”), and remains lit every night at least through New Year’s Eve. Since at least 2012, a fireworks display immediately follows the lighting.

For years the ceremony had been held from 7:00 to 8:00 PM, but for 2013 it was moved an hour earlier due to the store opening, the first time Macy’s retail employees were forced to work on the holiday. For 2014, it was moved another hour earlier, so that it was not yet even completely dark during the lighting, with local sunset occurring at 5:30pm. For 2015, the store will open even earlier, which would force the lighting into the afternoon. For this reason, the 67-year Thanksgiving tradition was abandoned, pushing the lighting to the Sunday before.

Originally, four choirs sang from the north face of the Crystal Bridge, which connected all but the lower two levels of the downtown Rich’s over Forsyth Street. Each of the four floors of choirs, ordered from bottom to top, sang during the program. Faux stained glass panels (still used by Macy’s) were put in the bridge’s windows on either side (left and right) of each choir, giving the ceremony an almost church-like effect. Street lights were turned off in the area below so there was no glare for the thousands of spectators that gathered every year regardless of the weather. The host/storyteller of those earlier days was Bob van Camp of WSB Atlanta radio and television, and once the organist at the Fox Theatre.

The ceremony, in those days, was based on the reading of the traditional birth of Christ, i.e. the “Christmas Story”, unlike today’s more generic “holiday” themes and music.[11]

Over the years the crowds grew. The venue expanded to include the south side of the bridge. Thus, four more choirs were added. Although heard by everyone, the ceremony of choirs alternated between the bridge facings. For the conclusion of the ceremony, all of the bridge choirs (of both musical eras) were lighted on every floor, and leading towards the soloist’s highest note in “O Holy Night”, at which point the lights on the great tree burst alive to shine on downtown Atlanta.

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