Top 10 Things You Didn’t Know About the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree is an iconic symbol of the holiday season in New York City. It is a massive Norway spruce that is typically over 75 feet tall and is adorned with tens of thousands of lights and decorations. The tradition of displaying a tree at Rockefeller Center dates back to 1931 when a group of construction workers placed a small tree on the site of the future building during the Great Depression. Since then, the tree has become a beloved symbol of hope and joy, attracting millions of visitors each year who come to see the dazzling display and take part in the festive atmosphere. The tree is typically lit in a grand ceremony in late November and remains on display until early January, marking the official start of the holiday season in New York City.

1. The First Tree

In 1931, the first tree was erected at Rockefeller Center on Christmas Eve by construction workers during the Great Depression. The tree stood only 20 ft. tall, which is a quarter of the size of this year’s holiday tree.

Let’s take a look at some of the 79-year-old tradition’s most historic moments

2. The $1.5 Million Star

The decorations used to adorn the tree have changed throughout history. In 1931, the tree was decorated with tin cans and scrap paper, which were appropriate decorations for Depression-era America. Over time, the decorations became more elaborate, such as garlands, glass, colored lights, and ornaments in the shape of dogs and sailboats. The 1990s saw the introduction of a gold-leaf star, but the most expensive decoration was the 550-lb. Swarovski star worth $1.5 million, which was created specifically for the tree and unveiled in 2009. The star comprises 25,000 crystals and 1 million facets.

3. The Tree Goes Black

In 1944, during World War II, three small trees dedicated to the U.S. effort in the war were planted at Rockefeller Center. They were either red, white or blue. In 1945, at the end of the war, six ultraviolet-light projectors were employed to create the illusion of all 700 fluorescent globes on that year’s tree glowing in the dark.

4. A Television Debut

In 1951, the tree made its first appearance on television during the lighting ceremony, which was shown on The Kate Smith Show.

5. The Search for the Perfect Tree

The search for the perfect tree has resulted in some trees being donated to Rockefeller Center, but most of the time, a tree is purposefully sought out. David Murbach would rent a car and embark on scenic drives through New England in search of the best specimens. More recently, Rockefeller Center’s crew has taken a helicopter into New England to locate the perfect tree from above.

6. Tree Climbing

In 1979, the Rockefeller tree became part of a political protest when a 27-year-old man climbed it and began shouting “Free the 50!”.

7. Taking the Trees into the City

Rockefeller Center Christmas trees travel into the city at night, when fewer cars are on the road, because they are so big and New York City is often traffic-jammed. The tree doesn’t require watering, so it won’t dry out like smaller indoor Christmas trees do.

8. The Tallest Tree

In recent times, the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree has a minimum height of 65 ft. However, in 1999, the display showcased the tallest tree ever, which was a Norway spruce towering over 100 ft. Due to the need for the tree to navigate through cramped city streets, it’s unlikely that the tree will ever be much larger than that. Since 1982, the Norway spruce has been the preferred tree species for New York City’s Christmas festivities.

9. Going, Greener

Rockefeller Center has become more environmentally conscious throughout history. Thirty-three-bushel bags of mulch were produced from the tree in 1971, which were then used for nature trails in upper Manhattan. Door frames for Habitat for Humanity homes were made using wood from the tree from 2005. By 2007, the organizers had replaced all lights with energy-efficient LED lights, totaling around 30,000. The new bulbs used 1,200-kilowatt hours less electricity per day, which is enough to power a 2,000-square-foot home for a month.

10. The Newest One

The beloved evergreen that lived in the side yard of New York City firefighter Peter Acton in Mahopac, N.Y., stood 74 ft. tall and weighed 12 tons before becoming the 2010 Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. Although Acton was sorry to see it go, he was proud to have it chosen for the holiday season..


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