Fun Facts About the Famous Rockefeller Tree

Nestled between West 48th and 51st street on the Rockefeller Plaza stands the 87th annual Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. The Rockefeller tree became an annual tradition starting in 1931, serving as a beacon of hope for those living through the Great Depression. 

The first tree ever displayed at the center, a 20-foot balsam fir, was erected and decorated by a crew of men working on the site where Rockefeller Plaza stands today. Their families made garlands to drape onto the tree and thus the annual tradition was born. 

Decades later, the tree remains a symbol of hope and the world around us, with millions visiting after 9/11 to see the tree decorated in patriotic red, white and blue. An estimated 125 million people visit each year, making it a must-see during Christmas-time in New York. 

How tall is the Rockefeller tree?

The 2019 tree measures in at an impressive 77 feet tall (think of all the Christmas ornaments it could hold!). The woman who donated it said in an interview that she planted the four-foot norway spruce in 1959, unsure if the tree would “take,” after she had it growing in a pot on her coffee table. She told reporters she’s delighted to share the tree with everyone, a true example of Christmas spirit.

How Many Lights are on the Rockefeller Tree?

50,000! That’s right, this year’s tree will hold five miles of colored lights. The tree wouldn’t be complete without its famous Swarovski star topper, measuring over nine feet across and adorned with more than 3 million Swarovski crystals, all backlit with LED lights. 

The topper, inspired by the beauty of starlight, is meant to “radiate meaning and mystery into the world,” says designer Daniel Libeskind. The Swarovski topper adds a magical finish to one of the world’s most beautiful trees. 

Rockefeller Tree

How Long is the Rockefeller Tree Up For? 

There are two major events to kick off the holiday season each year for the Rockefeller Tree. On Saturday, November 9th around 7:30 am, the tree was raised into place on the center plaza. The annual tree lighting took place on Wednesday, December 4th and will be lit for a full twenty-four hours on Christmas. The tree is taken down Friday, January 17th, 2020.

Fun-Fun Fact: The Rockefeller tree requires no water once set up! Because the tree is outside in the cool, sometimes freezing environment (as opposed to a heated home), it does not dry out! 

What Happens to the Rockefeller Tree After Christmas? 

In an epic example of charity and goodwill, the Rockefeller tree will be donated to Habitat for Humanity for its thirteenth consecutive year. Habitat for Humanity mills the tree into lumber to build a future home in New York with the help of Rockefeller Center employees. This tradition started in 2007 when employee volunteers helped frame houses for families affected by Hurricane Katrina. 

Lumber from years past helped construct homes in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Philadelphia and Mississippi. 

Of course, the Rockefeller tree isn’t the only tree that can be donated! Whether you own a real or artificial tree, you can donate it after the holiday season! Charities like the Salvation Army would love your artificial tree, and habitat sanctuaries or restoration projects would put your real tree to use!

The Rockefeller Tree: A Gift that Keeps on Giving

The epicenter of New York City’s holiday nostalgia, the celebration of the Rockefeller tree is one worth watching. Each year, a televised live broadcast premiers for anyone to enjoy. There is no cost to attend the tree lighting ceremony in person, so anyone can enjoy the magic and beauty of this Christmas tradition.

The 2019 tree lighting ceremony included stars like John Legend, Gwen Stefani, Derek and Julianne Hough, Idina Menzel, Lea Michele, NE-YO and the Radio City Rockettes.

Aside from the glam and glitz of the celebrations, the true symbol of the tree is one we can all take a lesson from. The donated tree is displayed free of charge for all to enjoy throughout the holiday season. The spirit of giving comes full circle when it is re-donated to Habitat for Humanity, providing shelter to the needy. With its breathtaking beauty, the Rockefeller tree gives us a reason to stop, reflect, and give thanks for the things right in front of us.  

As if it weren’t already beautiful enough, imagine the Rockefeller tree adorned with our mouth-blown, hand-painted ornaments? Which ones would you put on the tree? Let us know in the comments below!

Don’t forget your own tree! If you’re a big sports fan, check out our Sport ornaments. Animal lover? Cat and Dog ornaments are waiting for you! If you like to keep it traditional, check out our Angel ornaments

As always, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Old World Christmas!

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Written by

Rachael Mitchell

Rachael Mitchell is a freelance writer based in Seattle, Washington, and has over 15 years of writing experience. She’d never be able to pick just one favorite ornament, but narrowed it down to the S’more and Tennis Ball. She always looks forward to s’mores in the summer with friends and family adding gourmet ingredients, and played 4 years of college tennis in the mid-west.

1 comment

Ty very interesting.

Judith Aiken

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