Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting

Where else but New York could the lighting of a Christmas Tree take an hour?


Where will the 2023 tree come from?

The tree arrived

How it all started:


The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, an iconic symbol of holiday cheer, stands majestically in the heart of Midtown Manhattan, casting a festive glow over New York City and capturing the imagination of people across the United States. Nestled between the bustling streets of West 49th and 50th, and Fifth and Sixth avenues, this towering tree marks a tradition of joy and celebration.

The roots of this tradition stretch back to 1931, during the construction of Rockefeller Center. In a heartwarming display of community spirit, demolition workers pooled their resources to purchase a modest 20-foot balsam fir. This first tree, a humble symbol of hope amidst the Great Depression, was adorned with homemade garlands, cranberries, and even tin cans, standing proudly where the workers received their paychecks.

The official tradition began two years later in 1933, with a grand 50-foot balsam fir. Since the early 1980s, the tree has been a majestic Norway Spruce, often reaching awe-inspiring heights of at least 75 feet. The record-holder, a 100-foot giant from Killingworth, Connecticut, graced the plaza in 1999. Each year, the tree is a generous donation, often making a grand journey to its destination, whether by truck, barge, or even by air, as in 1998 when it flew from Ohio aboard an Anatov 124.

The tree’s decorations have mirrored the nation’s history. During World War II, the tree bore patriotic red, white, and blue globes, and even went unlit due to blackout regulations. In 2001, following the September 11 attacks, it was adorned in a similar patriotic fashion. Over the years, the tree has evolved technologically too, with a dazzling 550-pound Swarovski star introduced in 2004, and a shift to LED lights in 2007, culminating in a stunning 900-pound star debuting in 2018.

Today’s lighting ceremony is a spectacle of joy, with live entertainment and the New York City mayor lighting the tree alongside special guests. The ceremony, a tradition since 1951 and televised nationally since 1997, culminates in a collective rendition of “Joy to the World.” This event not only signifies the start of the holiday season but also symbolizes unity and communal celebration.

After brightening the city’s winter nights, the tree continues its journey of giving. Post-January 6th, it is donated to Habitat for Humanity, transforming from a symbol of holiday spirit to a tangible resource for building homes. The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree is not just a magnificent sight; it is a beacon of hope, continuity, and the enduring spirit of the holiday season.

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