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

The holiday season tradition of lighting the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree in New York has been carried out for more than 80 years. What was once a tree simply decorated with cranberry cords, garlands of paper and some cans by construction workers has turned into a touristic symbol of Christmas in New York City. The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree is installed every year around mid-November, and the lights are lit at a ceremony in late November or early December.

Where does the tree come from?

A lot of time and resources are invested to find the ideal tree for the ceremony. Since 2010, the person in charge of choosing the Christmas tree has been Erik Pauze, head gardener at the Rockefeller Center. Pauze is in charge of examining trees with potential, and when he finds a promising tree, he simply asks the tree owners if they’d like to donate it. After agreeing on the details with them, Pauze is responsible for bringing in arborists to continue to cultivate the tree to develop a significant amount of strength.

In the past, those in charge of looking for the perfect Christmas tree have searched for it in several states near New York and even in parts of Canada. All that effort is invested to be able to find the ideal tree, which is a national Christmas holiday symbol.

Installation process

The procedure for transporting and installing the tree in Rockefeller Center is anything but simple. First, to cut the tree from where it’s found, workers use a crane to provide support while they finish the cutting procedure. Afterwards, they transport the tree to the city, adorned with giant red arches or decoration banners, which many spectators can enjoy viewing.

When the tree arrives in the city, the workers use scaffolding to help them install the monumental star known as the 'Swarovski Star', along with the 50,000 LED lights. The stability of the Rockefeller Christmas tree is also taken into account since workers make sure to install a steel tip at the base of the tree.

Recent updates

With all the innovation that has occurred during the 8 decades of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree tradition, several updates and modifications have been made throughout its history. For example, in the year of 1944, due to being involved in World War II, the government imposed blackout regulations throughout the city, which forbade people from lighting Christmas trees in the outdoors of the city. On that occasion, the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree was left unlit. Additionally, below is a mini timeline of other major changes and updates made throughout the years.

1950's - This decade left its mark with increasingly taller trees and increasingly extensive procedures. What was once a simple process, evolved into a more involved installation method, requiring 9 work days, and a team of 20 people.

1971 - With the eco-friendly trend of taking care of the planet becoming more important, 1971 was the year they first decided to recycle the tree after it was done being displayed, to put it back to good use. In the case of this tree, the organizers recycled it and converted it into 30 bags of mulch.

2007 – Due to the benefits of energy-efficient lighting, 2007 marked the first year in which energy-efficient LED lights were used. Thanks to the change to this alternative, it was reported that the energy saved could sustain a 2,000 square feet house for a month.

National television coverage

With the popularity of television becoming a household standard, the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree tradition received national coverage via the NBC company for the first time in 1951. It first premiered on The Kate Smith Show, and the television channel would continue to broadcast this annual event, which propelled it to become a national symbol.

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