Every year millions of tourists come to New York City to catch a glimpse of the famous Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree and skate a few laps around the world-renowned ice skating rink. The tree gives people a reason to celebrate. It serves as a symbol of hope, a beacon of peace and is the official sign that the holiday season is upon us. This year’s tree arrived in Rockefeller Center this morning and will be raised later today. No matter how hard I try to hold off on celebrating Christmas until Thanksgiving has passed, it is difficult not to be excited by this sight.
(A special thank you to Matt for stopping to take these pictures on his way to work!)
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 small 20 foot balsam fir-tree with strings of cranberries, garlands of paper, and even a few tin cans on Christmas Eve, December 24, 1931. Some accounts have the tree decorated with the tin foil ends of blasting caps. Click here for a photo tribute and history of the Rockefeller Christmas Tree.
Many Rockefeller trees were given to Rockefeller Center by donors.Members of the Gardens Division of Rockefeller Center, scout 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 ft. This year’s tree is 74 feet tall and hails from the town of Mahopac (in Putnam County) which is located approximately 50 miles from Manhattan. The 75-year-old Norway spruce, is especially meaningful since it comes from the yard of 9/11 first responder and firefighter and was found on September 11th of this year.
Once at the Rockefeller Center, the tree is supported by four guy wire 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 of wiring. The star that has topped the tree since 2004 is 9.5 feet in diameter and weighs 550 pounds and is made out of the famous Swarovski crystals.
This year, the annual Christmas at Rockefeller Center tree lighting celebration will take place on November 30, 2010.