The Baccrag

The Student News Site of Baccalaureate School for Global Education

The Baccrag

The Baccrag

The Story of the Rockefeller Christmas Tree

December 1st, 2021 symbolizes a day of hope for millions of New Yorkers. It’s the annual lighting of the Rockefeller Tree. Located on 5th Avenue in midtown Manhattan, a 79 foot Norway Spruce decorated with lights and ornaments stands in the center of Rockefeller Plaza.

It was lit and celebrated on December 1st, with crowds of people gathering to see it lit after a year. A year may not seem like a long time, but missing out on a tree lighting for the first time since 1931 crushed the Christmas spirit of New Yorkers. 

The Rockefeller Christmas tree was erected after the Great Depression, and in a way 2020 was a year of psychological depression for all New Yorkers. To lose such an iconic symbol of hope was such an ordeal for New Yorkers.

Each year the head gardener of Rockefeller Center, Erik Pauzé selects a tree based on its shape, size, ability to hold heavy ornaments, condition, and height. The trees are usually Norway Spruces, between 69-100 feet tall, and must be perfect.

Puazé searches for trees as early as March. Trees are donated through Rockefeller Center’s website and if none match the ideal Christmas shape, he searches for trees at nurseries. If he finds the perfect one, most if not all, are donated.

The tree is transported into the city thanks to Christmas Tree Brooklyn, and while cruising the streets it’s adorned with red bows for a crowd to admire.

Decorating a tree for millions of people to see annually takes 9 days. Workers use 50,000 multicolored LEDs and a 90 pound Swarovski crystal for the star top. After the tree has had it’s 15 seconds of fame, the tree is donated to Habitat for Humanity and turned into a home.

The tree lighting is a massive undertaking and a year long commitment. A tradition for almost 100 years, it’s not taken lightly. To lose such an iconic celebration of hope and family and happiness during a time the pandemic was at its worst was crushing.

But now the tree is back, and celebrations are in order. Turning on a light in the dark is a classical symbol of hope, and lighting the Rockefeller tree during our dark times is a perfect example. 

The Rockefeller Christmas Tree has been a beacon of hope since the Great Depression, where it was first put up adorned with lanyards made of paper and tin cans. Ever since 1931, in which a smaller tree than what we’re used to today was put up, the tree has been something for families across the country to look forward to. 

The tree was a 20 foot tall fir tree set in the middle of Rockefeller Center, or what it was considering it was being constructed at the time. The workers piled up money from their own pockets, and it was set up in around mid December. 

What we know now is a 70 to 100 foot tree that shines at night with hundreds of lights. But even when compared to the tree’s beginnings, there is no doubt that it still continues to commemorate the holiday spirit and stamina of New York City. 

A few years after the first tree was put up in 1931, the first official lighting ceremony took place with a 50 foot tree, and two trees were put up a year later for the opening of the ice skating rink that over a quarter of a million people visit annually.

In this day and age it seems that the little things in life are what keep us going. Whether it be sparkling lights on a tree or being bundled up in scarfs and gloves, the holiday season is what gives us hope during the dark nights and cold mornings. But so much has changed since that cold winter day in 1931, and the permanent image of the Rockefeller Christmas tree every December is still a beacon of hope, and will continue to be for years to come. 

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Baccrag

Your donation will support the student journalists of Baccalaureate School for Global Education. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Baccrag

Comments (0)

All The Baccrag Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *