Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree photographed in December 1987, a 78 foot (24 m) high Norway Spruce decorated with 18,000 lights.

The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree is a large Christmas tree placed annually in Rockefeller Center, in Midtown Manhattan. The tree is erected in mid November and lit in a public ceremony in late November or early December. Since 1997, the lighting has been broadcast live, to hundreds of millions, on NBC's Christmas in Rockefeller Center telecast on a Wednesday after Thanksgiving. The tree lighting ceremony is aired at the end of every broadcast, following live entertainment and the tree is lit by the current Mayor of New York City and special guests.[1] An estimated 125 million people visit the attraction each year.[2]

The tree, usually a Norway spruce 69 to 100 feet (21 to 30 m) tall, has been a national tradition each year since 1933.[3] The 2018 Christmas Tree Lighting took place on November 28, 2018 and the tree remained on display until January 7, 2019.[4]

Selection and decoration

Trees are traditionally donated to Rockefeller Center, which in turn donates the lumber after display. Until his death in 2009, the late David Murbach,[5] Manager of the Gardens Division of Rockefeller Center, scouted for the desired tree in upstate New York and surrounding states, and even Ottawa in Ontario, Canada.[6]

Erik Pauzé, Head Gardener at Rockefeller Center, looks for each year's Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. He visits nurseries throughout the tri-state area and looks for unique backyard trees. Trees are also submitted for consideration through Rockefeller Center's website. Pauzé and his team choose each year's tree based on its heartiness and "Christmas tree shape," as well as its ability to support the heavy ornaments.[7]

Once a tree is selected, a crane supports the tree while it is cut, then moved to a custom telescoping trailer able to transport trees up to 125 feet (38 m) tall, although the narrowness of the streets around Rockefeller Center limits the height of the tree to 100 feet (30 m). The tree is then delivered to the city by a local company, Christmas Tree Brooklyn. On its way to Manhattan, the tree is often dressed in giant red bows or banners extending holiday greetings to witnesses. Trucks, barges, and a transport plane have all been used to help the tree make the trip.[8]

Once at Rockefeller Center, the tree is supported[9] by four guy-wires attached at its midpoint and by a steel spike at its base. Scaffolding is erected around the tree to assist workers in hanging about 50,000 multi-colored LED lights and the star top.[10] A new crystal star of Swarovski crystal which tops the tree was created in 2018 and designed by the renowned architect Daniel Liebeskind.[11] The new luminous stellar body features 70 spikes and three million crystals with LED lighting spots by the company Oznium.[12] who worked with the engineers. In total it weighs 900 pounds (408 kg).[13]


The first tree at Rockefeller Center, erected by construction workers in 1931 shortly after the site was cleared. Above, the workers line up for pay beside the tree, adorned with garlands made by workers' families.

The first Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center was erected in 1931, during the Depression-era construction of Rockefeller Center, when workers decorated a smaller 20 foot (6.1 m) balsam fir with "strings of cranberries, garlands of paper, and even a few tin cans"[14] on Christmas Eve.[15] With the lighting of the 50-foot-tall (15 m) first official tree two years later, the tree became what Rockefeller Center dubbed "a holiday beacon for New Yorkers and visitors alike". A skating rink was opened below the tree in the plaza in 1936.[2]

Since then, the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree has been a yearly tradition.[14] Workers pooled their money for that unlit tree, with the garlands made by workers' families. According to Rockefeller Center's website, the tree was "from the beginning ... a gathering place and reflection of what was happening in the world around it".[8]

World War II ushered in simple, patriotic decorations, including red, white and blue unlit globes and painted wooden stars. In 1942, instead of one large tree, three more modest trees were raised, each decorated in one of the flag's colors. From 1944 until the war's end in 1945, the tree went unlit due to blackout regulations.[2] After the war, the year of darkness was left behind, as six ultraviolet light projectors were employed to make it appear as though the tree's 700 fluorescent globes were glowing in the dark.[2] By the 1950s, workers began using scaffolding to decorate the tree, as larger trees were accommodated. Before the decade was over, the decorating process called for 20 workers and nine days.[8] 1951 marked the first time that NBC televised the tree lighting with a special on The Kate Smith Show.[2] In 1969, artist Valerie Clarebout's towering wire herald angels were added to the Channel Gardens in front of the tree near Fifth Avenue. Clarebout created the 12 sculptures using 75 points of metal wire each.[8][16]

The 1971 tree, a 65-footer from East Montpelier, Vermont, was the first to be mulched and recycled. It was turned into 30 three-bushel bags of mulch for the nature trails of upper Manhattan. Though the tree typically makes its journey on a truck bed, in 1998 it was flown in from Richfield, Ohio, on the world's largest transport plane.[2] 1999 saw Rockefeller Center's tallest tree, a 100 foot (30 m) spruce from Killingworth, Connecticut.[17]

In 2001, following the September 11 attacks, the tree was again decorated in hues of red, white and blue.[8] In 2007, the tree went "green", converting to energy-efficient lighting with LEDs.[18][19] The LEDs use 1,200 fewer kilowatts of electricity per day, enough to power a 2,000-square-foot home for a month.[2] Also since 2007, each year after display, the tree has been milled into lumber and donated to Habitat for Humanity for use in house construction.[20] Since 2011, the tree lighting ceremony has been followed by the singing of Joy to the World.


The 2016 Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, a 94-foot (29 m) high Norway Spruce

The decorated tree remains on display at Rockefeller Plaza, between West 48th and 51st Streets and Fifth and Sixth Avenues, at least through January 6 of the new year. More than a half million people pass by the tree each day while it is on display, according to Rockefeller Center.[8]


Since 1997, the lighting ceremony has been broadcast live on NBC in the first hour of primetime, live in the Eastern and Central time zones, and on tape elsewhere.[21] The ceremony is hosted by Today's Al Roker (1997–present), Savannah Guthrie (2012–present), and Hoda Kotb (2017–present).

Yearly tree details

Year Original location Tree type Height Lighting
1933 Balsam flr 50 ft
1936 Morristown, New Jersey 70 ft
1942 Huntington (CDP), New York 50 ft
1951 Lake Ronkonkoma, New York 82 ft
1957 Brighton, VT[22] White spruce 67 ft
1961 Smithtown Ny landing Meadow Road/ Gilmartin Estate
1963 Rockaway, NJ Bruce Fir, Veit 84 ft
1971 East Montpelier, Vermont Balsam fir 65 ft
1978 Mahwah, NJ[23] Norway spruce 75 ft
1980 Mahwah, NJ[24] Norway spruce 70 ft
1981 Norway spruce December 7, 1981
1982 Norway spruce December 6, 1982
1983 Tree-ton spruce 75 ft December 5, 1983
1984 Norway spruce December 3, 1984
1985 Norway spruce December 9, 1985
1986 Nanuet, NY[25] Norway spruce 68 ft December 1, 1986
1987 Norway spruce 78 ft December 1, 1987
1988 Norway spruce
1989 Montebello, NY[26] Norway spruce 70 ft
1990 Norway spruce
1991 Norway spruce December 3, 1991
1992 Norway spruce
1993 Norway spruce
1994 Ridgefield, CT Norway spruce 85 ft December 2, 1994
1995 Mendham, NJ Norway spruce 75 ft December 5, 1995
1996 Armonk, NY[27] Norway spruce 90 ft December 3, 1996
1997 Stony Point, NY Norway spruce 70 ft December 2, 1997
1998 Richfield, OH[28] Norway spruce 75 ft December 2, 1998
1999 Killingworth, CT[29] Norway spruce 100 ft* December 1, 1999
2000 Buchanan, NY[30] Norway spruce 80 ft November 29, 2000
2001 Wayne, NJ[31] Norway spruce 81 ft November 28, 2001
2002 Bloomsbury, NJ[32] Norway spruce 76 ft December 4, 2002
2003 Manchester, CT[33] Norway spruce 79 ft December 3, 2003
2004 Suffern, NY[33] Norway spruce 71 ft November 30, 2004
2005 Wayne, NJ[34] Norway spruce 74 ft November 30, 2005
2006 Ridgefield, CT[35] Norway spruce 88 ft November 29, 2006
2007 Shelton, CT[36] Norway spruce 84 ft November 28, 2007
2008 Hamilton, NJ[37] Norway spruce 72 ft December 3, 2008
2009 Easton, CT[38] Norway spruce 76 ft December 2, 2009
2010 Mahopac, NY[39] Norway spruce 74 ft November 30, 2010
2011 Mifflinville, PA[40] Norway spruce 74 ft November 30, 2011
2012 Flanders, NJ[41] Norway spruce 80 ft November 28, 2012
2013 Shelton, CT[42] Norway spruce 76 ft December 4, 2013
2014 Danville, PA[43] Norway spruce 85 ft December 3, 2014
2015 Gardiner, NY[44] Norway spruce 78 ft December 2, 2015
2016 Oneonta, NY[45] Norway spruce 94 ft November 30, 2016
2017 State College, PA[46] Norway spruce 75 ft November 29, 2017
2018 Wallkill, NY[47] Norway spruce 72 ft November 28, 2018
2019 Florida, Orange County, New York Norway spruce 77 ft December 4, 2019[48]

* Tallest Tree on Record

See also


  1. ^ Lambert, Bruce (December 5, 2008). "A Christmas Tree That Manhattan's Can Look Up To". The New York Times. Retrieved December 14, 2008.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "The History of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, a NYC Tradition". www.6sqft.com. November 29, 2016.
  3. ^ "Tree Facts" (PDF). The Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center. 2007.
  4. ^ "2018 Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree". Retrieved August 8, 2018.
  5. ^ "Rockefeller Center Christmas tree hunter David Murbach dies just before Christmas". The New York Daily News. January 6, 2010.
  6. ^ "Rockefeller Center's tree". about.com. Retrieved December 1, 2007.[permanent dead link]
  7. ^ "How Rockefeller Center Chooses a Christmas Tree Each Year". Travel+Leisure. November 10, 2016.
  8. ^ a b c d e f "Tree Lighting History". rockefellercenter.com/holidays.
  9. ^ In New York, a Big Tree Takes Its Place (video) – via YouTube.
  10. ^ AP (December 26, 2013). "Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lights Up". Gazers. Archived from the original on December 28, 2013. Retrieved December 4, 2013.
  11. ^ https://www.dezeen.com/2018/11/16/swarovski-star-daniel-libeskind-rockefeller-center-christmas-tree/
  12. ^ "LED Lights on Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree topper". https://www.oznium.com/blog/star-reborn-rockefeller-center-christmas-tree-led-topper/. External link in |website= (help)
  13. ^ "Like a Diamond in the Sky: The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Has a New Glow". Retrieved December 2, 2018.
  14. ^ a b Okrent, Daniel (2003). Great Fortune: The Epic of Rockefeller Center. Penguin Books. p. 188. ISBN 978-0-14200-177-6.
  15. ^ "Rockefeller Center Gets A 70-Foot Tree" (PDF). The New York Times. December 19, 1934. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved November 11, 2017.
  16. ^ Roussel, Christine (May 17, 2006). The Art of Rockefeller Center. New York: W.W. Norton & Company. p. 102. ISBN 978-0-39306-082-9.
  17. ^ "Yule Never Guess The Tree Height". thetreenyc.org.
  18. ^ "The tree at Rockefeller Center". Rockefeller Center. 2007. Retrieved December 1, 2007.
  19. ^ "LEDs will light up Rockefeller Christmas tree". CNN. 2007. Archived from the original on November 23, 2007. Retrieved December 1, 2007.
  20. ^ "84th Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting 2016". rockefellercenter.com/holidays.
  21. ^ https://www.rockefellercenter.com/holidays/rockefeller-center-christmas-tree-lighting/
  22. ^ Hunt, Pat (December 2008). "Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree". Vermont's Northland Journal. 7 (9): 6.
  23. ^ Storer, Sam (November 17, 1978). "Christmas tree going up today". Gadsden Times.
  24. ^ Storer, Sam. "Rockefeller Center Tree Goes up in New York City".
  25. ^ Fernandez, Manny. "It's No Simple Matter Before a Tree Joins Rockefeller Center History". The New York Times. Retrieved November 12, 2009.
  26. ^ "70-Foot Spruce Finds a Home for the Holidays". Retrieved December 25, 2016.
  27. ^ "The Torsilieris Deliver the Rockefeller Tree, Once Again". The New York Times. Retrieved December 3, 2013.
  28. ^ "The 1998 Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree". Retrieved December 1, 2013.
  29. ^ "Rockefeller Tree Lighting is Close".
  30. ^ "Rockefeller Center Christmas tree installed". CNN. November 12, 2010. Archived from the original on April 5, 2012.
  31. ^ "A Very Special Christmas Tree". CBS News. November 29, 2001. Retrieved November 27, 2018.
  32. ^ "76-foot spruce arrives in Rockefeller Center for holidays". The Boston Globe.
  33. ^ a b "NYC — Rockefeller Christmas and Tree — New York City". Retrieved November 12, 2009.
  34. ^ "Katrina, Rita Kids Light Rockefeller Tree". Fox News. December 1, 2005. Retrieved November 12, 2009.
  35. ^ "Connecticut Tree Spruces Up Rockefeller Plaza". Fox News. November 10, 2006. Retrieved November 12, 2009.
  36. ^ "2007 Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree From Shelton, Connecticut". About.com. November 9, 2007. Retrieved November 12, 2009.
  37. ^ "Hamilton tree headed for Rockefeller Center called 'miracle'". NJ.com. November 13, 2008. Retrieved November 12, 2009.
  38. ^ "Christmas tree going up in NY's Rockefeller Center". Associated Press. November 12, 2009. Archived from the original on November 18, 2009. Retrieved November 12, 2009.
  39. ^ "Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree donated by family of Ground Zero FDNY veteran". New York Daily News. November 11, 2010. Retrieved November 11, 2010.
  40. ^ Kokenes, Chris (November 9, 2011). "Rockefeller Center Christmas tree cut". CNN. Retrieved November 27, 2018.
  41. ^ "Rockefeller Center Christmas tree hails from N.J. this holiday season". Star-Ledger. November 12, 2012. Archived from the original on November 15, 2012.
  42. ^ "Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree". Courant. Retrieved November 11, 2010.
  43. ^ "Danville Christmas Tree Rockefeller Center". PennLive. Retrieved December 26, 2014.
  44. ^ "Rockefeller Center Tree to Arrive in New York City This Week". Retrieved November 3, 2015.
  45. ^ Rockefeller Center Christmas tree arrives in NYC, retrieved November 14, 2016
  46. ^ "Rockefeller Center Christmas tree will come from State College". Centre Daily. October 30, 2017. Retrieved December 7, 2017.
  47. ^ "Homeowners Give 2018 Rock Center Tree Last Hug Before Chop". NBC New York. November 8, 2018. Retrieved November 27, 2018.
  48. ^ "Here's the 1st look at the 2019 Rockefeller Center Christmas tree". TODAY.com. Retrieved October 23, 2019.



Further reading

External links

Coordinates: 40°45′31″N 73°58′42″W / 40.75861°N 73.97833°W / 40.75861; -73.97833

  1. ^ "Oznium LEDs Light Up New Star at Rockefeller Center". Oznium. December 11, 2018. Retrieved April 23, 2019.

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