Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree – USA, North America
The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree is a large Christmas tree placed annually in Rockefeller Center in mid-town Manhattan in New York City. The tree is erected and lit in late November or early December. In recent years, the lighting has been broadcast live nationwide on NBC’s Christmas in Rockefeller Center show. The tree, usually a Norway spruce 69 to 100 feet (21 to 30 m) tall, has been put up every year since 1933. In 2011, the 74-foot (23 m) tree will be lit on November 30 and remain until January 6, 2012.
Many Rockefeller trees were given to Rockefeller Center by donors. The late David Murbach, Manager of the Gardens Division of Rockefeller Center, scouted in a helicopter for the desired tree in areas including Connecticut, Vermont, Ohio, upstate New York, New Jersey, and even Ottawa, Canada. Once a suitable tree is located, a crane supports it while it is cut, and moves it to a custom telescoping trailer that can transport trees up to 125 feet (38 m) tall, although the width of New York City streets passing through Rockefeller Center limits the height of the trees to 110 feet (34 m).
Once at the Rockefeller Center, the tree is supportedby four guy-wires attached at its midpoint, and by a steel spike at its base. Scaffolding is put up around the tree to assist workers in putting up 30,000 lights attached to 5 miles (8.0 km) of wiring.
The star that has topped the tree since 2004 is 9.5 feet (2.9 m) in diameter and weighs 550 pounds (250 kg). This “Swarovski Star” was created by German artist Michael Hammers, who in 2009 additionally designed his own star lighting production.
Although the official Christmas tree tradition at Rockefeller Center began in 1933 (the year the 30 Rockefeller Plaza opened), the unofficial tradition began during the Depression-era construction of Rockefeller Center, when workers decorated a smaller 20 feet (6.1 m) balsam fir tree with “strings of cranberries, garlands of paper, and even a few tin cans” on Christmas Eve (December 24, 1931), as recounted by Daniel Okrent in his history of Rockefeller Center. Some accounts have the tree decorated with the tin foil ends of blasting caps. There was no Rockefeller Center Christmas tree in 1932.
The decorated Christmas tree remains lit at Rockefeller Center through January 6, which is the Christian feast of The Epiphany. Then it is removed from the premises and recycled for a variety of uses. In 2007, the tree went “green,” employing LED lights. After being taken down, the tree was used to furnish lumber for Habitat for Humanity house construction.
The tallest Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center was a 100 feet (30 m) spruce erected on November 11, 1999 that was being cared for by Cathy and Jim Thomson.