The Famous Rockefeller Center
Christmas Tree

Have you seen the most famous evergreen in the world? It's the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree and you can visit it during Christmas in New York City.

It's located between 49th and 50th Street on 5th Avenue in the heart of Midtown Manhattan. It's been a Christmas tradition now for 80 years! It's a spectacular sight and you can view it each year during the first week in December through the first week of January.
Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

What makes the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree so famous?

It's the enormous tree, the huge star topper, the thousands of lights and the wonderfully entertaining tree lighting ceremonies each year that have made this one of the most popluar Christmas activities.

Each year it receives more and more media attention from around the world due to all the various forms of communication.

The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree is a symbol of joy, peace and hope for millions of people who gaze upon it during the Christmas season.

Wouldn't you love to experience this famous Christmas tradition with your loved ones? My family and I look forward to visiting each year at Christmas time.

This is my husband Sam and me in front of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree in December.

Check out NYC Vacation Packages to see how you can visit too.

About the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

Did you know that the tree most often selected to be the famous Christmas tree is a Norway Spruce? And that's because it usually grows to extreme heights - sometimes over 100 feet tall.

The requirement for the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree is that it must be a minimum height of 65 ft. (but usually its more like 70 - 90 feet tall) and width of 35 feet at its broadest point - and with a full set of branches.

Selection Process

Rockefeller Center officials scout the tree with aerial surveys in a helicopter during the winter. Evergreens are more visible in winter when they are amongst the brown and leafless trees.

The official (usually the Gardens Manager at Rockefeller Center) follows up with a ground trip to view the tree up close. The tree must possess a "special" quality that sets it apart from the rest.

Somtimes tree owners from across the nation send in photos to have their tree selected as the honorable Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree.

Officials try to have a tree selected and an agreement reached with the owner by July 4th.

By mid November the selected tree is "corseted" which means the branches are wrapped in twine and burlap for transport through the highways and back roads to New York City. Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree
With plenty of media attention, the tree is hoisted with a hydrallic crane and its trunk is cut. The rings on the stump are counted and recorded. Sometimes a sapling is planted in its place.

Once the tree gets to the city, it takes one day to install it in the center of Rockefeller Plaza with a hyrdallic lift. But before it is erected, the top of the tree gets decorated while lying horizontal. It takes about 2 weeks to completely decorate the tree with thousands of lights and secure a huge sparkling tree topper star.

The Star

A star has always topped the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree. At times, it was a sheet metal star with lights, or a large silver or white plastic star. But since 2004, it has been topped with the largest most beautiful star - the Swarovski crystal star.

It is 9 feet wide and 550 pounds with 25,000 sparkling swarovski crystals surrounded with LED lights for even more dazzle. It is magnificent to see the bright star lit up atop this gorgeous Christmas tree! It's one of the amazing sights to see in New York City for kids.

At times in the history of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, it has been decorated with plastic balls (1940's), whimsical ornaments like animals, stars, boats (1934), fluorescent colored globes illuminated with black light during 1945, and plastic snowflakes. In recent years the tree is adorned with thousands of lights and the magnificent Swarovski crystal star.

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Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree History

In 1931 construction for what would become Rockefeller Center had begun. It was in the middle of the Great Depression and New York City economy was hit extremely hard, especially the construction workforce. John D. Rockefeller Jr. had ambitious plans to construct 9 main buildings and 2 smaller ones between 49th and 50th Streets in Midtown, NYC. This project created thousands of jobs for the people of New York City at a time when they desperately needed work and money.

In an expression of thanks and hope, these workers erected the very first Christmas tree at the construction site of Rockefeller Center. It was only 20 ft tall and had tin cans and makeshift garland as decorations, but to them it represented joy and hope - the miracle of the Christmas season.
Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

The first official Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree was erected in 1933 in front of the RCA building that was just completed a few months before. It was 50 ft tall. That year also featured the first tree lighting ceremony, although it was a small event and did not include all the entertainment and festivities future ceremonies would have.

That all began the next year in 1934. Each subsequent year's lighting ceremony brought more live musical programs with much pomp and circumstance to symbolize the start of the Holiday season.

In 1937, the Rockefeller Plaza outdoor skating pond opened and quickly became an important part of the Christmas festivities.

From the humble beginning in 1931 of a simple Christmas tree evolved an enduring tradition of majestic evergreens ushering in the start of the most joyous time of the year- Christmas!

FUN FACTS about the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

1) During the World War II in 1941, the tree was decorated in red, white and blue bulbs to show support for our troops.

2) In 1942, there were 3 trees in Rockefeller Center, not one! There was a 50 ft tree in the center, flanked by two 30 ft trees on either side. One was decorated in red, the other blue and the other white lights.

3) The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree was painted silvery white using 200 gallons of paint in 1949.

4) Once the tree is erected in the Plaza it does NOT need water. It is not watered at all. The cold climate in NY allows the tree to retain its water. Not like the Christmas trees we have in our homes that need water each day. It's the heat from our homes that dries the tree out and makes watering a necessity.

5) The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree has come from various states, not just NY. It's also come from: New Jersey, Vermont, Maine, Conneticut, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Massaachusets, Ohio and even once from Canada (as a gift from the Canadian Government).

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

6) Going Green - Since 1971 the gigantic tree has been recycled after its been taken down. Its been chipped and turned into 3 tons of mulch and given to Boy Scout Camps or NYC park trails.

7) It takes about 30 electricians at least one week to put up about 25,000 lights onto the tree - that's 25 miles of electrical wires!

8) The tallest Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree was 100 ft tall - a Norway Spruce from Killingworth, Conneticut.

9) In 2001, to honor the vicitms of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the tree was decorated with red, white and blue lights.

10) In 2007, they started using LED lights to conserve energy. They are powered by solar panels on top of 45 Rockefeller Plaza. This saves enough energy to power a mid sized house for a month!

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

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