New York City marks the beginning of the holiday season and Christmas festivities with the 80th annual Rockefeller Center Christmas tree lighting ceremony, held on 28 November.

The world-famous Rockefeller Center Christmas tree was lit ahead of the period of Advent, which falls on the first Sunday of December this year. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and others at the Rockefeller Center announced: "Let there be light" and turned the tree's lights on.

This year's Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, a Norway spruce (Picea abies), is 80ft tall and was brought from Mount Olive in New Jersey. An Associated Press report states the tree weighs 10 tons and has been illuminated by more than 30,000 lights.

The lighting ceremony was attended by thousands of onlookers who lined the streets around the Rockefeller Center. The event also saw performances by members of Italian pop group Il Volo, American rapper Cee Lo Green and British singer Rod Stewart.

American singer/actor celebrities present at the lighting ceremony were Bette Midler, Chris Mann, Brooke White and Scotty McCreery. Actress Victoria Justice and comedian Billy Crystal also attended the show.

The tradition of decorating and lighting a Christmas tree at the Rockefeller Center dates back to 1931, when the building was still under construction. Workers brought and decorated a smaller 20ft balsam fir tree and the tradition has stuck since then.

Over the years, taller trees were chosen and now, the average height for the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree varies from 69ft to 100ft (21m to 30m). Last year, the tree, which was taken from Mifflinville in Pennsylvania, was 74ft tall and was illuminated by 30,000 lights stretching five miles.

The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree will stay illuminated until 7 January.

Check out a selection of photographs from the lighting ceremony of the tree...