Chicago's 'Holiday' Tree: Rahm Emanuel, City's First Jewish Mayor, On Hand For Lighting (VIDEO)
Mayor Rahm Emanuel continued a Chicago tradition by flipping the switch to light the 55-foot Colorado spruce in Daley Plaza Wednesday night, but unlike Mayor Daley, Emanuel will be lighting a "holiday" tree.
The city's first Jewish mayor originally abstained from calling the festive display a "Christmas tree," although the city refers to Wednesday night's event as the "98th Annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony" on its website.
Emily Soloff, associate director for interreligious and intergroup relations for the American Jewish Committee, told the Chicago Tribune that the mayor's word choice was admirable.
"Those for whom it isn't a religious symbol relate to it for the symbol of happiness and joy that we all as Chicagoans can experience this season," Soloff said. "That adds to our civic pride and our feelings of being a community that we all share in a part of this season."
Wednesday evening, the mayor encouraged his fellow Chicagoans to lend a helping hand this holiday season, NBC Chicago reports.
"And that's what makes our city a stronger city," Emanuel said Wednesday. We take a moment of our time, we deliver food, work, we contribute something to your community, to you city, to those who are less fortunate during the holiday season and the whole city is stronger for it."
The tree, submitted by the Spangler family of Western Springs and chosen by public vote, features 5,800 multicolored lights this year, according to ABC Chicago.
The holiday season "officially commenced" when Emanuel flipped the switch at 5:00 p.m., lighting the tree and other lights around Daley Plaza, according to the city's event site. Christkindlmarket, the traditional German Christmas market, also opened Wednesday, and will run through Christmas Eve.
Holiday festivities downtown continue Thursday morning with the Thanksgiving parade down State Street, which kicks off at 8 a.m. The parade's grand marshall is actress Holland Taylor, who is currently playing in "Ann" at the Bank of America Theatre.
WATCH Mayor Emanuel speak at the tree-lighting ceremony Wednesday:
View more videos at: http://nbcchicago.com.