The inspiring story of how the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree tradition began

Darcy Rafter November 25, 2022
The inspiring story of how the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree tradition began

The NYC Rockefeller Christmas tree has become unanimous with the holiday season for decades, but many don’t know the inspiring story behind the tradition.

Christmas in New York City is absolutely iconic with films like Miracle on 34th Street and Elf causing many to associate the concrete jungle with this time of year. Some of the most beloved traditions of a New York City Christmas date back to nearly 100 years ago, when the Rockefeller Center was erected.

The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree draws millions of visitors every year and The Focus takes a look at the inspiring story behind it.

The inspiring story of how Rockefeller’s Christmas tree tradition began

The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree serves as a sign of hope and prosperity for many thanks to its humble beginnings which dates back to the Great Depression.

In December 1931, the United States was submerged in the Great Depression in the wake of the 1929 stock-market crash. However, a group of construction workers in New York City put their money together to create a beacon of hope for the city. They bought a Christmas tree to stand on the site of Rockefeller Center, which was just starting to be built.

The 20-foot-high fir tree was decorated with homemade baubles and ornaments made from tin cans made by the workers’ families. In 1933, Rockefeller put up a 50-foot tree with 700 lights and held the first official tree-lighting ceremony. In 1936, two trees were put up to mark the opening of the ice rink and they also held an ice skating competition.

During World War II, the tree had a patriotic theme, with red, white, and blue. There was a rule that no materials needed for the war were to be used on the tree. Instead of one tall tree, there were three smaller ones, and this was also the first year that the tree was replanted. Then In 1944, the tree was unlit due to the wartime black-out.

It was in 1951 when NBC televised the first tree lighting on The Kate Smith Show. Since then, the tree lighting has been an annual event and has featured famous hosts, singers, and celebrities.

Rockefeller’s 2022 Christmas tree

Rockefeller Center head gardener Erik Pauze is given the task of finding the tree each year and he has done so since 2010. Eric makes his final decision in September before the winning tree makes its way to New York.

The tree has arrived in a variety of different transportation methods over the years. For example, in 1977, it came down the Hudson River from Stony Point on a barge. In 1998, it was flown in from Richfield, Ohio on the world’s largest transport plane.

The 82-foot-tall tree has finally arrived in NYC signaling that Christmas is just around the corner. This year’s Rockefeller Christmas tree is a staggering 50 feet wide and weighs 14 tons.

This year’s tree is a Norway Spruce from Queensbury in New York and is around 85 to 90 years old, as per

It was cut down on Thursday, November 10, and placed onto a 115-foot trailer, as it traveled to Manhattan. The star placed on the top of the tree weighs 900 pounds or 408kg and is covered in 3 million Swarovski crystals.

Each year since 2007, wood from the Christmas tree has been turned into lumber and used to help a family build a Habitat for Humanity home.

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Darcy is an experienced journalist passionate about celebrity culture and entertainment. After gaining a degree in Media and Communications at Goldsmiths University she has also become a social media specialist, always keeping informed on the latest trends. With almost five years of experience in media, her expertise is analysing platforms such as Instagram, Twitter and TikTok. When she's not tracking the latest trending content, she’s watching films and eating lots of chocolate.