Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree
The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree is a large Christmas tree placed annually in Rockefeller Center, in Midtown Manhattan, New York City, United States. 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. An estimated 125 million people visit the attraction each year.
The tree, usually a Norway spruce 69 to 100 feet (21 to 30 m) tall, has been a national tradition each year since 1933. The 2019 Christmas Tree Lighting took place on December 4, 2019 and the tree remained on display until January 7, 2020.
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, 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.
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.
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.
Once at Rockefeller Center, the tree is supported 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. A new crystal star of Swarovski crystal which tops the tree was created in 2018 and designed by the renowned architect Daniel Liebeskind. The new luminous stellar body features 70 spikes and three million crystals with LED lighting spots by the company Oznium. who worked with the engineers. In total it weighs 900 pounds (408 kg).
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" on Christmas Eve. 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.
Since then, the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree has been a yearly tradition. 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".
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. 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. 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. 1951 marked the first time that NBC televised the tree lighting with a special on The Kate Smith Show. 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.
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. 1999 saw Rockefeller Center's tallest tree, a 100 foot (30 m) spruce from Killingworth, Connecticut.
In 2001, following the September 11 attacks, the tree was again decorated in hues of red, white and blue. In 2007, the tree went "green", converting to energy-efficient lighting with LEDs. The LEDs use 1,200 fewer kilowatts of electricity per day, enough to power a 2,000-square-foot home for a month. 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. Since 2011, the tree lighting ceremony has been followed by the singing of Joy to the World, which has, since 2018, been performed by the Main Street Gospel choir.
Until 2018, the lighting was the very last moment of the program, and has since been moved to the last ten minutes.
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.
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. The ceremony is hosted by Today's Al Roker (1997–present), Savannah Guthrie (2012–present), and Hoda Kotb (2017–present). Until 1997, it had been broadcast before primetime exclusively in New York on WNBC. In 2019, a second hour was added, meaning the tree is now lit just before 10 p.m. ET.
Yearly tree details
|Year||Original location||Tree type||Height||Lighting ceremony||Stood until|
|1933||Balsam flr||50 ft |
|1936||Morristown, New Jersey||70 ft (21 m)|
|1942||Huntington (CDP), New York||50 ft (15 m)|
|1951||Lake Ronkonkoma, New York||82 ft (25 m)|
|1955||Belvedere, New Jersey||65 ft |
|1957||Brighton, Vermont||White spruce||67 ft (20 m)|
|1960||Harford, PA |
|1961||Smithtown, New York||85 ft |
|1962||White Spruce ||67 ft |
|1963||Rockaway, New Jersey||Bruce Fir, Veit||84 ft (26 m)|
|1971||East Montpelier, Vermont||Balsam fir||65 ft (20 m)|
|1978||Mahwah, New Jersey||Norway spruce||75 ft (23 m)|
|1980||Mahwah, New Jersey||Norway spruce||70 ft (21 m)||December 8, 1980|
|1981||White spruce||65 ft ||December 7, 1981|
|1982||Norway spruce||December 6, 1982|
|1983||Tree-ton spruce||75 ft (23 m)||December 5, 1983|
|1984||Norway spruce||December 3, 1984|
|1985||Harveyville, PA||Norway spruce||70 ft (21 m)||December 9, 1985|
|1986||Nanuet, New York||Norway spruce||68 ft (21 m)||December 1, 1986|
|1987||Norway spruce||79 ft (24 m)||December 1, 1987|
|1989||Montebello, NY||Norway spruce||70 ft (21 m)|
|1991||Norway spruce||December 3, 1991|
|1992||Stony Point, NY||Norway spruce||65 ft |
|1994||Ridgefield, Connecticut||Norway spruce||85 ft (26 m)||December 2, 1994|
|1995||Mendham Borough, New Jersey||Norway spruce||75 ft (23 m)||December 5, 1995|
|1996||Armonk, New York||Norway spruce||90 ft (27 m)||December 3, 1996|
|1997||Stony Point, New York||Norway spruce||70 ft (21 m)||December 2, 1997|
|1998||Richfield, Ohio||Norway spruce||75 ft (23 m)||December 2, 1998|
|1999||Killingworth, Connecticut||Norway spruce||100 ft (30 m)||December 1, 1999|
|2000||Buchanan, New York||Norway spruce||80 ft (24 m)||November 29, 2000|
|2001||Wayne, New Jersey||Norway spruce||81 ft (25 m)||November 28, 2001|
|2002||Bloomsbury, New Jersey||Norway spruce||76 ft (23 m)||December 4, 2002|
|2003||Manchester, Connecticut||Norway spruce||79 ft (24 m)||December 3, 2003|
|2004||Suffern, New York||Norway spruce||71 ft (22 m)||November 30, 2004|
|2005||Wayne, New Jersey||Norway spruce||74 ft (23 m)||November 30, 2005|
|2006||Ridgefield, Connecticut||Norway spruce||88 ft (27 m)||November 29, 2006|
|2007||Shelton, Connecticut||Norway spruce||84 ft (26 m)||November 28, 2007|
|2008||Hamilton Township, Mercer County, New Jersey||Norway spruce||72 ft (22 m)||December 3, 2008|
|2009||Easton, Connecticut||Norway spruce||76 ft (23 m)||December 2, 2009|
|2010||Mahopac, New York||Norway spruce||74 ft (23 m)||November 30, 2010|
|2011||Mifflinville, Pennsylvania||Norway spruce||74 ft (23 m)||November 30, 2011|
|2012||Flanders, New Jersey||Norway spruce||80 ft (24 m)||November 28, 2012|
|2013||Shelton, Connecticut||Norway spruce||76 ft (23 m)||December 4, 2013|
|2014||Danville, Pennsylvania||Norway spruce||85 ft (26 m)||December 3, 2014|
|2015||Gardiner, New York||Norway spruce||78 ft (24 m)||December 2, 2015|
|2016||Oneonta, New York||Norway spruce||94 ft (29 m)||November 30, 2016|
|2017||State College, Pennsylvania||Norway spruce||75 ft (23 m)||November 29, 2017|
|2018||Wallkill, Orange County, New York||Norway spruce||72 ft (22 m)||November 28, 2018|
|2019||Florida, Orange County, New York||Norway spruce||77 ft (23 m)||December 4, 2019|
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree.|
- Christmas in Rockefeller Center, NBC.com
- NYC Insider Guide to Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting
- Tree Lighting Times at Rockefeller Center, NYSGO.com
- "Oznium LEDs Light Up New Star at Rockefeller Center". Oznium. December 11, 2018. Retrieved April 23, 2019.