The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree
November 30th 2022 marked the 90th year of a classic American tradition, the lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree...To celebrate the occassion and ring in the Holiday Season, I thought it might be fun to share some history of this iconic tradition that millions of people look forward to every year. I hope you enjoy this quick history - and that you have a great Holiday Season with family and friends!

- Patrick Dolat, Shopkeeper @ Newport Lamp & Shade Company

The following excerpts and photographs were taken directly from,,, and

Black and White Photograph of the first Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree in 1931

The first tree at Rockefeller Center, erected by construction workers in 1931 shortly after the site was cleared.

The beginning...

The first Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center was erected in 1931, during the Depression-era construction of Rockefeller Center, when Italian-American workers decorated a small 20 foot balsam fir with strings of cranberries, garlands of paper and tin cans on Christmas Even. 

Photograph of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree on a flat bed truck

Photo by Diane Bondareff for Tishman Speyer

Where does the tree come from?

The tree, traditionally a Norway Spruce, is scouted by Erik Pauzé, Head Gardener at Rockefeller Center. He visits nurseries throughout the tri-state area and looks for unique backyard trees. Trees are also submitted for consideration through Rockefeller Center's website. Pauzé and his team choose each year's tree based on its heartiness and "Christmas tree shape," as well as its ability to support the heavy ornaments.

Photograph of Rockefeller Center

Photo by June Marie

Notable years...

From 1944 until the end of World War II in 1945, the tree went unlit due to blackout regulations.

In 1966 the tree was donated from Ottawa, Canada by the Petawawa Forest Preserve in honor of Canada's centennial celebration - the first time the tree came from outside of the U.S. 

In 1971 the tree was recycled for the first time - and turned into 30 three-bushel bags of mulch for the nature trails of upper Manhattan.

In 1998 the tree was flown in from Richfield, Ohio, on the world's largest transport plane, rather than coming in on a truck bed. 

1999 saw Rockefeller Center's tallest tree, a 100 foot spruce from Killingworth, Connecticut.

Photograph of the Swarovski Crystal Start for the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

The Swarovski star being set atop the tree in 2018.
Photo by Angela Pham

What about the lights...

The tree is decorated with over 50,000 multi-colored LED lights and a star made of Swarovski crystal weighing 900 pounds adorns the top. 

Photograph of the Rockfeller Center Christmas Tree
Photo by Diane Bondareff for Tishman Speyer

Where can we see the tree online?

Watch the live-stream at

Photo of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lumber

Photo from

What happens to the tree after?

Since 2007, lumber milled from the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree h
as been donated to Habitat for Humanity and is used to help a family build their home.