The official Christmas tree tradition at Rockefeller Center began in 1933, the unofficial tradition began during the Depression era construction of the center when workers decorated a 20 ft. balsam fir tree with strings of cranberries, garlands of paper and even a few tin cans on Christmas Eve in 1931.
The tree stays lit until a week after New Year's Day, when it is removed and recycled for a variety of uses. In 2007, the tree went "green" using LED lights which are more energy efficient. After it was taken down, the tree was used to furnish lumber for Habitat for Humanity house construction. Trees used since 2003 range from 71 ft. to 100 ft. tall. That's quite a big jump from the 20 ft. tree that was first decorated.
Many of the trees were given to the Rockefeller Center by donors. The tree and decorations above were from 1949.
Once at the Rockefeller Center, the tree is supported by four guy-wires 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. Now that's a whole lot of wiring!
The star that's topped the tree since 2004, is 9.5 ft. in diameter and weighs 550 lbs. This "Swarovski Star" was created by German artist Michael Hammers. That is just amazing! I never really thought about all of the hard work that went into erecting this tree year after year!
Dec. 1987, 75 ft. Norway Spruce, 18,000 lights.
The lighting of the tree in more recent years is broadcast live nationwide on NBC's Christmas in Rockefeller Center show.
The trees are usually a Norway Spruce. A tree has been put up every year since 1931, with the exception of the year 1932.
In 1933, the first celebration included a 50ft. tree, and a week long series of events including choral presentations, trumpeters, and the national NBC radio broadcast of mass public Christmas caroling from the site, and it soon became a national tradition. It's come a long way since then.