Zilker Christmas Tree Lighting
December 4, 2011 - 6pm
A tradition since 1967, the annual lighting of the Zilker Tree is one of the city's most popular and recognized events.
It's not technically a tree but rather one of the original Moonlight Towers (Austin's first illumination system, way back in 1894, consisted of 31 carbon-arc lamps on 150 foot tall wrought iron poles). The Zilker Tree is constructed of 39 streamers which hold 3300 individual bulbs in a spiral design. There is also a large, double star comprised of 150 individual frosted bulbs.
The 2011 Zilker Tree Lighting Ceremony is Austin's unofficial kickoff to Christmas (and in past years served as the epicenter for the Zilker Park Trail of Lights Festival or for various scaled back - i.e. cheaper - holiday festivals that sometimes followed).
The Zilker Holiday Tree will be lit and on display from 6:00 pm thru midnight beginning on 12/4/2011 and running through the end of December.
2011 Update: In 2011, there will, in fact, be a holiday festival at Zilker. It is now being called HolidayFest Austin. The last Trail of Lights at Zilker was, I believe, in December of 2008. 2009 was a scaled back festival called the Zilker Tree Holiday Festival, and in 2010, there was no event other than the Zilker Holiday Tree lighting ceremony and display.
The actual lighting was originally a mayoral perk, but in recent years a very cool tradition has emerged. In 2011, both the Junior Division winner (5-7 year olds) and the Senior Division winner (8-10 year olds) of the city's annual Zilker Tree Coloring Contest (deadline for entries is November 28, 2011) gets the honor of flipping the switch and bringing Christmas to Austin.
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Another tradition, for both kids and adults, is to spin from within the center of the tree (there's 120 feet of radius to work with) while looking straight up toward the top of the 150 foot tree.
There's nothing that says Christmas like momentary disorientation and enjoying a festive atmosphere while flat on your back.
The tree stays lit each year until December 31st.