Tying the family Christmas tree to the roof of the car, driving it home, and getting it set up is a job unto itself. Now imagine doing that with a tree more than nine times larger! The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree tradition began in New York City in 1933, the same year as the ’30 Rock’ building opened. The first tree was a 20 foot balsam fir decorated with cranberry strings, paper garland, and even some tin cans. Things have grown a bit since then- this year’s tree is a 94 foot Norway Spruce, the tallest so far, with the exception of 1999’s 100 foot giant.
Most of the trees are donated to Rockefeller Center. Head gardener Erik Pauzé scouts the perfect tree from as far away as Ottawa, Canada. Once found, it’s supported by crane while being cut and then moved to a custom-designed telescopic trailer that can hold up to a 125 foot tree. Then, it rides in style to the City courtesy of the family-owned Christmas Tree Brooklyn company. For safety, 4 guy-wires are attached to the middle of the tree with a steel spike at the base. Workers must erect scaffolding in order to apply the over 45,000 LED lights. Imagine being the bulb-checker on that job! Finally, the tree is topped with a 9.5 foot, 550 pound Swarovski crystal star. The tree remains lit until January 6, when it’s removed for recycling. For example, 2007’s tree was used for lumber for a Habitat for Humanity project. Because of all these individuals working together, the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree has become a symbol of the holidays for the whole country, with a legacy that will last into each new year.