CHICAGO (CBS) — Chicago’s official Christmas tree is ablaze with thousands of lights — topped out with a big white star.

After a couple of years of trees panned by some Chicagoans as scraggly, the 64-foot Colorado spruce elicited “oohs” and “aahs” when the lights were switched on promptly at 5 p.m. Tuesday.

“This looks like a huge tree. It’s beautiful,” said Ann Gilligan of Morgan Park.

Her husband Dave agreed.

“This is a winner,” he said. “Good job, Rahm. Your tree is the best one we’ve seen in a while.”

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Others had trouble believing that it sat in the front yard of the Theiszman family in northwest suburban Prospect Heights till less than a month ago.

Several family members appeared on stage to help punch the buttons to light the tree.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel urged Chicagoans to remember members of the military who are serving overseas this holiday season, and their families, as well as those who are less fortunate.

He also gloated over the tree.

“It’s a big tree for a big city with big shoulders,” he said.

The tree anchors Chriskindlmarket in Daley Plaza, which will be open daily through Christmas Eve. This year is the 17th year for the Daley Plaza Christkindlmarket, which was inspired by the famed Nuremburg Christmas market dating back to 1545.

Vendors at the market sell cookies, spiced wine, bratwurst, potato pancakes, Christmas ornaments, clothing, and plenty of other gifts — such as rare European fabrics and textiles.

Tuesday was also the first day for kids to visit Santa’s Workshop at Daley plaza. Kids can have their picture taken with Santa and tell him what they want for Christmas every day through Christmas Eve:

–Wednesday, November 21: 11 am – 8 pm
–Special hours on Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, November 22: 11 am – 4 pm
–Friday, November 23 – Sunday, December 23: 11 am – 8 pm (Santa will take a break from 3 – 4 pm)
–Special hours on Christmas Eve, Monday, December 24: 11 am – 4 pm

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