I love the holidays. I love New York City. And I especially love New York City during the holidays! With the city a buzz with Christmas shoppers, the crisp, cold air and the stores all lit up with lights, I feel as if I’ve just walked off the set of a holiday movie. But, I’ve never known the story behind the wondrous Rockefeller Christmas tree… until now!
The “official” Rockefeller tree tradition began in 1933, when 30 Rockefeller was opened, strung with 700 lights and placed in front of what is today the GE building. The tree is almost always a Norway Spruce, which is not indigenous to the United States, but planted as an ornamental tree.
How do they pick the tree? I’m happy you asked as I wondered the same thing!
Those willing to donate their large tree (some have been reported to receive a small fee) receive free landscaping for life and VIP viewing privileges to the tree lighting. The tree must measure at least 65 feet tall and 35 feel wide, indicating that it’s about 50 years old. Some nominate their own trees, while other trees are found and the owners are approached and asked if they would be willing to part with their tree. After the tree has been cut down, the head gardener counts the rings for a more accurate age.
After selection, the tree is escorted to New York City by police escort in the middle of the night, to ensure the least amount of traffic is affected. It takes 2 dozen electricians on scaffolding to secure the 5 miles worth of wire with 30,000 lights. The tree is lit around the first week of December, has been televised since 1951 and remains lit until the first week of January.
Post Christmas season, the tree is milled and the lumber donated to Habitat for Humanity, which makes this tree beautiful to the eyes and a story warming to the heart…