TODAY's Takeaway: Soldier's surprise, deliverers' delays, Christmas tree's roots

A look back at the humble roots of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, a soldier's Yuletide surprise for his mom, and holiday delivery delays.

1. Leslie Ruggiero, a Brick, N.J., mom, was at her job as a maternity ward nurse at Ocean County Medical Center on Christmas Eve when a Santa Claus visited the ward and handed her a postcard from her son Travis, an Army mechanic serving in Afghanistan. As she clutched the card in tears, Santa removed his disguise to reveal she'd received the gift she wanted most: Travis was home for Christmas, even though he hadn't been dur back until March.

2. The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree will continue to draw visitors from around the world until Jan. 7. Standing 76 feet tall, it's a far cry from 1931, when workers building Rockefeller Center in the depths of the Great Depression decorated a 20-foot balsam fir tree with "strings of cranberries, garlands of paper, and even a few tin cans" on Christmas Eve.

3. Was it the weeks of bad weather? The spike in online sales? Whatever it was, there were bare spots under a lot of Christmas trees yesterday due to late deliveries by UPS and FedEx. Both companies issued apologies, but that wasn't enough to quell outrage on social media under the hashtags #upsfail and #fedexfail.

4. Britain's royal family, on the other hand, had a jolly good 2013: a new baby, Queen Elizabeth's 60th year on the throne, and more. Take a look back at the five best royal moments of the year.

5. Tamron Hall reeling deliriously under a deluge of puppies. Savannah Guthrie taking a pie to the kisser. And of course the indelible spectacle of Matt Lauer channeling Pamela Anderson. Those were just a few of the unforgettable TODAY moments of 2013 — and they've all been captured as GIFs for you to enjoy again and again and again and again and again....