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The twinkling Christmas trees that crop up in every square of New York City over the holiday season endow each neighborhood with holiday charm © Jeff Kern / Flickr
The twinkling Christmas trees that crop up in every square of New York City over the holiday season endow each neighborhood with holiday charm © Jeff Kern / Flickr

A Brief History Of The Christmas Tree In Rockefeller Center

Picture of A. J. Samuels
Updated: 14 November 2016
The twinkling Christmas trees that crop up in every square of New York City over the holiday season endow each neighborhood with holiday charm. Thompson Square Park in the East Village wraps a towering, leaning pine in white lights, and Washington Square Park installs a classic, multi-colored tree. While trees are easy to spot throughout December, the most iconic tree in all of New York resides in Rockefeller Center.
Trees are easy to spot throughout December in NYC © Laura Bittner / Flickr

Situated in the heart of Midtown in Rockefeller Center, 2015’s iconic tree was a 90-year-old, 85-foot Norway spruce that was donated by a Pennsylvanian family. This beautiful giant, which weighed 13 tons, was decorated with 45,000 LED lights and adorned with a 9.5 foot-wide Swarovski star. These solar powered lights are on five miles of wire – enough to reach from 110th street to 14th street along Broadway.

2015's iconic tree was a 90-year-old, 85-foot Norway spruce that was donated by a Pennsylvanian family © Regan76 / Flickr

2015’s iconic tree was a 90-year-old, 85-foot Norway spruce that was donated by a Pennsylvanian family © Regan76 / Flickr

Located atop the bustling ice-skating rink, the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree serves as a meeting point for tourists and locals alike. Despite the hype and extravaganza that surrounds the contemporary tree, this tradition has modest beginnings. Christmas Eve, 1931 saw the first ‘unofficial’ tree erected by a group of construction workers. At only 20 feet tall, this iteration served as a beacon of hope during the Great Depression.

Two years later, in 1933, the first official tree was erected with a tree lighting organized by a publicist. This 50-foot pine was decorated with 700 lights and signified the beginning of one of Manhattan’s most beloved traditions. Today, lighting the tree is a televised event, complete with musical acts, celebrity appearances, and flocking crowds.

This 50-foot pine was decorated with 700 lights and signified the beginning of one of Manhattan’s most beloved traditions © Marianne O'Leary / Flickr

This 50-foot pine was decorated with 700 lights and signified the beginning of one of Manhattan’s most beloved traditions © Marianne O’Leary / Flickr

The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree was up until 7th of January in 2015, and remained lit for 24 hours on Christmas Day. After removal, this tree was repurposed to build homes with the organization Habitats for Humanity, and the stump was donated to US Equestrian team to become an obstacle.

After removal, this tree was repurposed to build homes with the organization Habitats for Humanity © Shinya Suzuki / Flickr

After removal, this tree was repurposed to build homes with the organization Habitats for Humanity © Shinya Suzuki / Flickr

By Kirsten Nicholas