The most wonderful time of the year has officially arrived, which means that starry eyed visitors and jaded New Yorkers alike will soon be flocking to the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. An iconic harbinger of the yuletide season, the festive fir has quite the storied history
Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. This year’s tree – a massive Norway spruce from Wallkill, N.Y. – is 72 feet tall, weighs roughly 24,000 pounds, and sparkles with over 50,000 lights, NYC Go reports. After being lit tonight, Nov. 28, it will welcome the masses until Jan. 7 of the New Year.
Get your cup of cocoa ready, and read on to learn twelve litle known facts about what’s arguably the world’s most famous Christmas tree.
1. Recruitment takes a year
“It’s an all-year process, where I’m constantly looking for trees to put on the list. I go around and visit prospective trees,” Rockefeller Center’s head gardener, Erik Pauze told AM New York last year. “If you get a tree that’s halfway decent looking, and you go visit it and it looks good in the picture but you get up close, and it’s not, then you go around that area, because maybe the climate and the weather isn’t too bad, so there may be another good one there.”
Though finding the right fir is serious business, Pauze trusts his instincts
“Sometimes I visit a tree several times over the year, [to] watch it grow or fill out. But when I see the perfect one, I just know it,” he told NYC Go.
2. It’s usually a Norway spruce
Aspiring trees have to fill quite a few requirements for a shot at being selected.
The chosen tree is often a “nicely shaped” Norway spruce, usually at least 75 feet tall and dense enough that you “shouldn’t be able to see the sky through it,” Pauze told the outlet, in order to have presence in Rockefeller Center.
Though it’s typically sourced from the tristate area, the tree has occasionally traveled great distances to the heart of Manhattan — the 1966 tree was from Canada, and the 1998 tree came from Ohio, AM NY reports.
3. The tree is donated
Surprisingly, Rockefeller Center doesn’t pay a dime for the timber — it is traditionally donated by its owners. Nevertheless, Tishman Speyer Properties, Rock Center’s owner, pays to transport it to New York City, according to the outlet.
The tree is often brought in during the night, when the streets are quiet.
4. The tradition began with a sentimental start
According to Mental Floss, the Rockefeller Tree tradition began with a sentimental start in 1931, in the thick of the Great Depression.
“The Depression-era workmen building [Rockefeller Center] were so grateful to have jobs that they decorated a spruce tree with strings of cranberries, paper garlands, and a few tin cans,” the outlet states of the tree’s origin story. “On December 24, they lined up beneath the tree and received a small Christmas miracle: paychecks.”
Two years later, in 1933, the first official Rockefeller Center holiday tree welcomed the masses.
5. The tree was once silver
In 1949, the annual Rockefeller Tree was not a traditional evergreen hue, but in fact, painted silver, to mimic snow, as per AM NY.
6. There’s a new Swarovski topper this year
Making its debut in 2004, the glitzy, 550-pound Swarovski-crystal star that’s become a yearly staple has been “reimagined” with a new look for 2018, NYC Go reports.
According the outlet, the new version has 3 million crystals, 70 glass spikes and a brightness of 106,000 lumens.
The older model of the crown jewel was believed to be worth at least $1.5 million, AM NY reports.
7. It has to be camera-ready
No “bad side” here. Pauze says the tree has “got to look good” not only to dazzle visitors, but look great on television.
“It’s got to look good from all sides, because it’s viewed from all the angles, like the Fifth Avenue side or when people come around the corner from Radio City Music Hall or when people come out of the subway,” he told the outlet. “It’s constantly on TV so it’s got to look good.”
8. Visitors come out in droves
Approximately 750,000 people are expected to visit the tree every day through the holiday season this year, according to NYC Go.
9. Of course, daredevils have tried to climb it
Though various adventurers have (unsuccessfully) attempted to summit the gigantic tree over the years, one 27-year-old man got all the way to the top in 1979. Upon arriving at the top, he screamed “Free the 50!” in reference to the Americans who were imprisoned at the U.S. embassy in Iran at the time, Mental Floss reports.
Law enforcement officials tactfully talked him down, explaining that his stunt would not, unfortunately, help release the captives.
10. The evergreen has gotten greener
Since 2007, the tree has gotten greener, with solar panels powering many of the fir’s lights, Mental Floss reports.
11. Those who donate the tree become VIP
So “[The families] get invited down [to Rockefeller Center] after we cut the tree down, and they come down when we put it up, and they get to hang around that day,” Pauze told AM NY of the chosen ones, who win status as lighting ceremony VIPs. “When we light it up, they hang around and get to enjoy the festivities.”
12. It’s truly a “giving tree”
After its run at the plaza, the tree is milled into lumber and donated to build a home through Habitat for Humanity.
“We take it down, get it out of the plaza, and get it to a place in New Jersey,” Pauze told AM NY. “We mill it, then get it down to what’s usable and kiln-dry it. You’re not going to be able to build an entire house, but you’ll get a couple of window or door frames. It’s a pretty cool piece to have in your house.”