Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

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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. In recent years, the lighting has been broadcast live, to hundreds of millions, on NBC's Christmas in Rockefeller Center telecast on a Wednesday after Thanksgiving. The lighting is aired near the end of the broadcast, following live entertainment.[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 2016 Christmas Tree Lighting took place on November 30 2016; the tree will remain on display through January 7, 2017.[4]

Selection and decoration[edit]

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, Canada.[6]

The trees are now scouted by Erik Pauzé, Head Gardener at Rockefeller Center. Pauzé visits nurseries throughout the tri-state area while keeping his eye out for one-of-a-kind backyard trees. Trees may also be submitted for consideration through Rockefeller Center's web site. 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 width of city streets around Rockefeller Center limits the height of the tree to 100 feet (30 m). Local business Christmas Tree Brooklyn provides support in delivering the tree safely into the city. On its way to Manhattan, the tree is often dressed in giant red bows or banners extending holiday greetings to witnesses. Trucks, barges, and even 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] The crystal star that has topped the tree since 2004 is 9.5 feet (2.9 m) in diameter and weighs 550 pounds (250 kg). This "Swarovski Star," containing 25,000 Swarovski crystals, 1 million facets, and LED lights, was created by German artist Michael Hammers.[11][12]

History[edit]

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.

Although the official Christmas tree tradition at Rockefeller Center began in 1933 (the year 30 Rockefeller Plaza opened), an unofficial tradition began during the Depression-era construction of the 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 (December 24, 1931), as recounted by Daniel Okrent in his history of Rockefeller Center.[13] According to Rockefeller Center, workers pooled their money for that unlit tree, with the garlands made by workers' families.

With the lighting of the first official tree, a 50 footer (15 m), 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. [14] Rockefeller Center has observed the tree to be "from the beginning ... a gathering place and reflection of what was happening in the world around it."[15]

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.[16] 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.[17]

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.[18] 1951 marked the first time that NBC televised the tree lighting with a special on "The Kate Smith Show."[19]

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.[20]

The 1971 tree, a 65-footer from East Montpelier, Vt., 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. [21]

The 2016 Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, a 94 foot (29 m) high Norway Spruce from Oneonta, N.Y., with 50,000 lights. Photographed December 2, 2016 by Michael Vadon.

1999 saw Rockefeller Center's tallest tree, a 100 foot (30 m) spruce from Killingworth, Conn.[22] In 2001, following the events of September 11, the tree was again decorated in hues of red, white and blue.[23]

In 2007, the tree went "green", converting to energy-efficient lighting with LEDs.[24] [25] The LEDs use 1,200 fewer kilowatts of electricity per day, enough to power a 2,000-square-foot home for a month.[26]

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. [27]

The 2016 tree, a Norway Spruce from Oneonta, N.Y., is at 94 feet high the second tallest ever erected at Rockefeller Center. At 56 feet wide and over 30,000 pounds, the tree is the widest and heaviest to date, according to construction crews. [28]

Since 2011, the tree lighting ceremony has been followed by the singing of Joy to the World. 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.[29]


Yearly Tree Details[edit]

Year Original Location Tree Type Height Lighting
2016 Oneonta, NY[30] Norway spruce 94 ft November 30, 2016
2015 Gardiner, NY[31] Norway spruce 78 ft December 2, 2015
2014 Danville, PA[32] Norway spruce 85 ft December 3, 2014
2013 Shelton, CT[33] Norway spruce 76 ft December 4, 2013
2012 Flanders, NJ[34] Norway spruce 80 ft November 28, 2012
2011 Mifflinville, PA Norway spruce 74 ft November 30, 2011
2010 Mahopac, NY[35] Norway spruce 74 ft November 30, 2010
2009 Easton, CT[36] Norway spruce 76 ft December 2, 2009
2008 Hamilton, NJ[37] Norway spruce 72 ft December 3, 2008
2007 Shelton, CT[38] Norway spruce 84 ft November 28, 2007
2006 Ridgefield, CT[39] Norway spruce 88 ft November 29, 2006
2005 Wayne, NJ[40] Norway spruce 74 ft November 30, 2005
2004 Suffern, NY[41] Norway spruce 71 ft November 30, 2004
2003 Manchester, CT[41] Norway spruce 79 ft December 3, 2003
2002 Bloomsbury, NJ[42] Norway spruce 76 ft December 4, 2002
2001 Wayne, NJ Norway spruce 81 ft November 28, 2001
2000 Buchanan, NY[43] Norway spruce 80 ft November 29, 2000
1999 Killingworth, CT[44] Norway spruce 100 ft* December 1, 1999
1998 Richfield, OH[45] Norway spruce 75 ft December 2, 1998
1997 Stony Point, NY Norway spruce 70 ft
1996 Armonk, NY[46] Norway spruce 90 ft
1995 Mendham, NJ Norway spruce 75 ft
1994 Ridgefield, CT Norway spruce 85 ft
1986 Nanuet, NY[47] Norway spruce 68 ft
1980 Mahwah, NJ[48] Norway spruce 70 ft
1978 Mahwah, NJ[49] Norway spruce 75 ft
1963 Rockaway, NJ Bruce Fir, Veit 84 ft
1957 Brighton, VT[50] white spruce 67 ft
  • *Tallest Tree on Record

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  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. ^ "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. ^ "Christmas Tree Lighting". rockefellercenter.com/holidays/rockefeller-center-christmas-tree-lighting/. 2016. 
  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 2007-12-01. 
  7. ^ "How Rockefeller Center Chooses a Christmas Tree Each Year". Travel+Leisure. November 10, 2016. 
  8. ^ "Tree Lighting History". rockefellercenter.com/holidays. 
  9. ^ In New York, a Big Tree Takes Its Place. Youtube. 
  10. ^ AP (26 December 2013). "Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lights Up". Gazers. Retrieved 4 December 2013. 
  11. ^ Berger, Paul (2005-12-04). "A Star Is Reborn". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-05-29. 
  12. ^ Barron, James (2009-11-18). "A Star Makeover". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-12-11. 
  13. ^ Okrent, Daniel Okrent (2003). Great Fortune: The Epic of Rockefeller Center. New York: Viking Press. p. 188. ISBN 0-670-03169-0. 
  14. ^ "The History of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, a NYC Tradition". www.6sqft.com. November 29, 2016. 
  15. ^ "Tree Lighting History". rockefellercenter.com/holidays. 
  16. ^ "The History of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, a NYC Tradition". www.6sqft.com. November 29, 2016. 
  17. ^ "The History of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, a NYC Tradition". www.6sqft.com. November 29, 2016. 
  18. ^ "Tree Lighting History". rockefellercenter.com/holidays. 
  19. ^ "The History of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, a NYC Tradition". www.6sqft.com. November 29, 2016. 
  20. ^ "Tree Lighting History". rockefellercenter.com/holidays. 
  21. ^ "The History of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, a NYC Tradition". www.6sqft.com. November 29, 2016. 
  22. ^ "Yule Never Guess The Tree Height". thetreenyc.org. 
  23. ^ "Tree Lighting History". rockefellercenter.com/holidays. 
  24. ^ "The tree at Rockefeller Center". Rockefeller Center. 2007. Retrieved 2007-12-01. 
  25. ^ "LEDs will light up Rockefeller Christmas tree". CNN. 2007. Archived from the original on November 23, 2007. Retrieved 2007-12-01. 
  26. ^ "The History of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, a NYC Tradition". www.6sqft.com. November 29, 2016. 
  27. ^ "84th Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting 2016". rockefellercenter.com/holidays. 
  28. ^ "This Year's Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Is a Huge Norway Spruce". ny.curbed.com. 
  29. ^ "Tree Lighting History". rockefellercenter.com/holidays. 
  30. ^ Rockefeller Center Christmas tree arrives in NYC, retrieved 2016-11-14 
  31. ^ "Rockefeller Center Tree to Arrive in New York City This Week". Retrieved 2015-11-03. 
  32. ^ "Danville Christmas Tree Rockefeller Center". PennLive. Retrieved December 26, 2014. 
  33. ^ "Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree". Courant. Retrieved November 11, 2010. 
  34. ^ "Rockefeller Center Christmas tree hails from N.J. this holiday season". Star-Ledger. 2012-11-12. 
  35. ^ "Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree donated by family of Ground Zero FDNY veteran". New York Daily News. 2010-11-11. Retrieved 2010-11-11. 
  36. ^ "Christmas tree going up in NY's Rockefeller Center". Associated Press. 2009-11-12. Archived from the original on November 18, 2009. Retrieved 2009-11-12. 
  37. ^ "Hamilton tree headed for Rockefeller Center called 'miracle'". NJ.com. 2008-11-13. Retrieved 2009-11-12. 
  38. ^ "2007 Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree From Shelton, Connecticut". About.com. 2007-11-09. Retrieved 2009-11-12. 
  39. ^ "Connecticut Tree Spruces Up Rockefeller Plaza". Fox News. 2006-11-10. Retrieved 2009-11-12. 
  40. ^ "Katrina, Rita Kids Light Rockefeller Tree". Fox News. 2005-12-01. Retrieved 2009-11-12. 
  41. ^ a b "NYC — Rockefeller Christmas and Tree — New York City". Retrieved 2009-11-12. 
  42. ^ "76-foot spruce arrives in Rockefeller Center for holidays". The Boston Globe. 
  43. ^ "Rockefeller Center Christmas tree installed". CNN. 2010-11-12. 
  44. ^ "Rockefeller Tree Lighting is Close". 
  45. ^ "The 1998 Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree". Retrieved 2013-12-01. 
  46. ^ "The Torsilieris Deliver the Rockefeller Tree, Once Again". The New York Times. Retrieved 3 December 2013. 
  47. ^ Fernandez, Manny. "It's No Simple Matter Before a Tree Joins Rockefeller Center History". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-11-12. 
  48. ^ Storer, Sam. "Rockefeller Center Tree Goes up in New York City". 
  49. ^ Storer, Sam (1978-11-17). "Christmas tree going up today". Gadsden Times. 
  50. ^ Hunt, Pat (December 2008). "Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree". Vermont's Northland Journal. 7 (9): 6. 

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