The Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center may have some nice lights, but a new tree is coming to town — and this one’s got legs.
Mr. Christmas Tree, also known as Tommy Liberto, will be stumping Times Square Friday for his third annual holiday trip to New York City.
Decked in evergreen boughs from head to toe, his mission is simple: to spread kindness and cheer.
“I’m spreading smiles,” Liberto said in an interview with Metro.
It will be his third year coming to New York as Mr. Christmas Tree, a head-to-toe costume that, with a couple strands of lights and a lot of branches, transforms him into the holiday tree.
Liberto will start his New York visit off early, walking past the Today Show. It’s been a longtime goal of his to get on the show. Last year he got close, but security guards foiled him at the last minute.
But he did make an appearance on Humans of New York.
For Liberto, being Mr. Christmas Tree has been a “soul saver.”
After battling depression for years and dealing with the disappointment of rejection as a stand-up comedian and cable TV presenter, he found himself getting older with not much to show for it.
“I was nearing my 40th birthday and I realized I hadn’t really accomplished much, or made my goals. I’d done cool stuff, but I wanted to do more,” he said.
So he set out to make people laugh. From a failed movie attempt, Liberto’s character was born. What started out as a ghillie suit — camouflage clothing — slowly evolved into the full-blown evergreen costume now known as Mr. Christmas Tree.
He said it’s his way of making the world a better place.
“I’ve been making a lot of people laugh with my suits and it’s a successful delivery vehicle for my comedy,’ he said.
He said it's all about making human connections. As a street performer he meets all kinds of people and tries to pay it forward whenever he can.
"I don’t ask for money for having pictures taken with me, but sometimes people ask if I take tips. I'll usually take it and give it to a homeless person I meet," Liberto said.
He pays for travels by selling custom-designed Mr. Christmas Tree pins, which are available on Etsy for $15.
When he’s not traveling city to city with a Christmas tree strapped to his back, Liberto lives in Bel Air, Maryland, and works as a stagehand in Washington.
It’s a job that gives him enough freedom to uproot and take his antics on the road.
This year Mr. Christmas Tree has already toured Baltimore, Denver and Los Angeles. Next up is Philadelphia.
You can follow along with Mr. Christmas Tree's travels on his Facebook page.