Rudolph was nowhere in sight.
It was 8:28 on a gray Thursday morning, and a man with a broom worked to scrub the sawdust from Continental Square. A lone stump lay propped against a city trash can.
Dave Rudolph - who oversees York's electrical bureau and nearly all things Christmas - couldn't make it, he said. Anyway, by that time it was already over.
York's Christmas tree had been mulched.
Across the city, the news was much the same.
Just weeks after the holiday, only a few trees remained, scattered like lost revelers along the early morning streets. One lay sprawled on the cracked pavement near Penn Street. Another seemed rooted to an old chair out on the curb.
A third slumped against a paint-chipped door west of town, seemingly awaiting its fate.
Jim Gross, the city's public works director, said that tree collection is largely complete. The city generally picks up about 2,000 trees, he said, taking them to the compost site at Memorial Park where they're ground into mulch.
That product is then used in flower beds and other plantings around the city, Gross said. The 30-foot-tall tree from the square will fare no better, though on Thursday it did provide a pickup full of fragrant mulch, by the time workers were done.
York residents usually start putting trees on the curb a few days after Christmas, Gross said, and by the second week of January, nearly all are collected.
"There are only a few stragglers now," he said. "It's pretty much over with."
A York Daily Record/Sunday News Facebook page survey indicated the same. Most have taken down their decorations, and by now have long since forgotten about that tree they searched for and so eagerly brought home.
Many said that New Year's is the right time to say goodbye to last year's tree.
A few, including Chris Armstrong Nagle, said they held out until mid-January.
"Tree came down last week," she wrote online on Jan. 13, "and the rest of the decorations came down yesterday."
Sad face, she wrote.
Yet a few stalwarts remained. Asked how long decorations should remain up and the lights left aglow, Mikew Rong's reply was to the point.
"Forever," he wrote.
For most that's not practical. But on Thursday morning, maybe an hour after that mulching in the square, there remained a sprinkling of Christmas across the city.
Like one little tree that leaned casually against a front porch railing.
A closer look showed its thin branches were metal, its base made of molded plastic. But the lights still twinkled.
And it seemed welcome, one January morning on Pine Street.