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The Christmas Tree Tradition at Union Square

Posted by GrayLineofSanFrancisco on December 7, 2020

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The tradition started 31 years ago, since then every year millions of people gathered at Union Square to experience the holidays, to do shopping and more. Unlike the past, this year’s lighting ceremony is made privately to avoid crowds and due to the stay-home order that became effective on December 7th at 12:01 am, the tree is expected to be less visited than other years. 

What is so special about this tree and how did this tradition start?

This magnificent 83 feet tall Christmas tree, decorated with more than 33,000 energy-efficient LED lights, and there are close to 1,100 ornaments on the top of that. The electrical cables are several miles that cover this artificial tree and are attached with strobe lights. This year is the 31st year of its tradition, and every year it gets placed by Macy’s in late November and stays there for a while. Despite the order, it will not be put away before Christmas.

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The tradition begun with Macy’s tree installations. The installations that were placed before 2012 were an eastern white pine that is mostly grown and transported from north Georgia. It was changing 60 to 80 feet every year and it was requiring hundreds of gallons of water along with bottles of aspirin to keep the tree alive. The tree was selected 10-12 months before each event and cut a few weeks before to complete miles of cable wiring. In the beginning of the tradition, the tree was getting placed on the top of Macy’s Building, but once on a windy day, it fell off the roof without hurting anyone. Later the Great Tree was gifted to San Francisco by Macy’s later it got started to placed in the center of Union Square.

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Last year’s installation was visited with thousands of people, along with an ice-skating ring that was placed at Union Square. But this year we will miss the ice-skating ring because it’s not placed due to safety measures. Here are memories from 2019’s installation.

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This year additional led projectors are placed to create a better atmosphere around Union Square, welcoming all visitors for 31st year of this tradition.

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What is the best way to see it during the pandemic?

To avoid crowds, make sure you practice social distance during your walk or run in San Francisco. The safest way to see this magnificent tree is to drive around Union Square, you will be able to see all the lightings around it. Make sure you also stop by Chinatown to see the holiday lights at Dragon Gate as well.

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Although the stay-home order is a little disappointing for all of us, we have to obey this order for the safety of all. We will need to celebrate this holiday with indoor activities. Please practice social distancing and good hygiene to lower the risk of spreading or contracting the disease, if we are outside for our essential activities.

Stay safe!

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