How Radio City Music Hall Transforms for the Holidays, According to a Rockette

Get an inside look at the decorations and holiday cheer that transform Radio City Music Hall for its annual Christmas Spectacular.

Exterior of Radio City Music Hall at Christmastime on red overlay

MSG Entertainment | Design: Better Homes & Gardens

The holidays create a sense of magic everywhere in the world, but especially in New York City. Between the legacy of Christmas classics like Home Alone 2 and the magic of ice skating in front of the Rockefeller tree, the colder months bring a festive feeling to the Big Apple that can’t be replicated anywhere else. One of the most iconic elements of the New York holiday season: the Christmas Spectacular starring the Radio City Rockettes.

You can easily find photos of the giant red ornaments around the building’s exterior, lit-up trees brightening the street outside, and the glowing tree at the marquee, but there’s a lot more that goes into Christmas at Radio City. Read on to find out how the Radio City Music Hall gets decked out, with insider details from a Rockette.

The annual tradition of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular started in 1933 and has been one of New York’s favorite holiday activities since its opening. The show has a new scene this year: “Dance of the Frost Fairies” sees the Hall transformed into a winter wonderland, complete with frost fairies floating high above the audience.

Maranda LeBar, who has been a Rockette for 11 years, would go see the Christmas Spectacular with her family as a kid, and the event became a staple for celebrating the season.

“Growing up in New Jersey, I feel like for a lot of families that’s sort of part of your Christmas tradition,” LeBar says. “Coming into New York and seeing all the streets decorated and all the different sights, whether it's the shops, or right across the street from Radio City there's a little ornament display, a Christmas tree, candy canes—I just feel like the whole city always feel that Christmas spirit, and I do think that the Rockettes are a big part of that.”

You know the holidays have officially begun when you see signs advertising the Spectacular outside Radio City. Inside the lobby, a crystal chandelier in the shape of a Christmas tree hangs from the ceiling, reflecting light from all angles. The hall is filled with wreaths and draped garlands, and technology that’s been added in the last few years allows you to feel like you’re part of the show through immersive details such as projections on the ceiling and a huge LED screen. 

The decorations carry over from the hall into the Rockettes’ dressing rooms, too. LeBar changes up the theme of the holiday decor at her personal station each year—sometimes it’s classic red and green, or more of a wintery aesthetic. This year, she opted for pinks and purples, complete with a Christmas placemat, purple lights around her mirrors, ornaments, and a lot of garland. In the dressing room she shares with eight other Rockettes, they decided to channel a snow theme inspired by the new “Dance of the Frost Fairies” scene. LeBar hung blue and white snowflakes from the ceiling, and they also added a mini Christmas tree and lights to the space. 

Radio City Music Hall with holiday decorations

Rich Fury/MSG Entertainment

“You’re bringing the spirit of Christmas to 6,000 people every single show, so bringing that same spirit into our dressing room is just keeping the energy and the magic of Christmas alive all day and all season long,” LeBar says. “We’re spending so much time at the hall—this is our family. We spend Christmas here, Christmas Eve. We just try to keep it homey and comfortable.”

Practically living at Radio City and performing every day during the holiday season creates a lot of joy for the Rockettes’ festive audience, but LeBar’s favorite part is seeing the excitement of the kids, especially those seeing the show for the first time. It takes her back to when she would come with her family as a kid, she says, and it’s what makes her want to do the show year after year. 

“There's really nothing like it,” she says. “You know, it’s iconic going to New York at Christmas time, and especially with the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree being right around the corner from us. Whether people are coming to see that, coming to see the Christmas Spectacular, or just spending time in the city, you can feel how excited everyone is on the streets of New York.”

Radio City Music Hall decorated for the holidays

Rich Fury/MSG Entertainment

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