The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

Sep 12 06:24 2008 Ellen Bell Print This Article

An iconic symbol of Christmas time in New York City, the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree has heralded in the holiday season since 1931.  Learn more about the history of this colossal tree and why it's made such a mark on the city that celebrates it each year.

Since 1931,Guest Posting the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree has been lighting up the holidays each year for New York City residents and visitors.  One of the most well known decorated Christmas trees in the United States, this tree has become an iconic symbol of the holiday season in New York City.  The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree is also a major tourist attraction; thousands come to New York each year to see the tree lighting ceremony, or just to view the tree during the several weeks when it is on display.

The first tree displayed in Rockefeller Center in 1931 was a Balsam Fir measuring about 20 feet tall.  It was set up by construction workers who were building Rockefeller Center, and during this depression-era, they were proud to have a tree displayed amidst the mud and construction debris of their work area.

Today the Rockefeller tree is usually a giant Norway Spruce measuring between 75 and 90 feet tall.  The tree is unofficially selected each year by the manager of the Rockefeller Center gardens, with the search for the perfect tree beginning months ahead of time.  Each year, the Rockefeller Center receives hundreds of photographs from people all over the United States, and even some in Canada, offering their trees for use in Rockefeller Center.  The manager then drives around the Northeastern part of the United States, viewing trees and looking for the perfect specimen.  In winter months, the tree is scouted out by helicopter until one has been selected.

Norway Spruce trees are not native to North America, in fact they grow naturally in Europe.  Here in the U.S., Norway Spruces are generally planted as ornamental trees in front or back yards, and they can grow to enormous proportions, as tall as 80 to 110 feet.  The Rockefeller center specifies that the tree they use for their official Christmas tree must measure at least 65 feet tall and 35 feet wide, though the tree that's usually selected measures larger than these dimensions.

Cutting and moving the tree is a very involved process.  Cutting and moving the tree requires 15 to 20 people and a 180 ton all-terrain hydraulic crane.  This crane travels to the location of the tree, and supports the tree by its tip while it is cut.  Once cut, the tree is then transported to a truck with a large telescoping trailer, designed to accommodate up to a 125 foot tall tree.  To avoid traffic congestion, the tree is usually moved into the heart of New York City during the nighttime hours via a pre-selected police escorted route.

The tree is erected in Rockefeller Center and is supported by four large guy wires and a steel spike that supports the tree at its base.  The tree is then lighted with over five miles of stringed lights.  In recent years, the tree's lighting has become more energy efficient.  In 2007, for the first time, the tree was lighted with LED Christmas lights instead of incandescent.  It is estimated that the LED lights have reduced the tree's energy consumption by almost two thirds.  In addition, the Rockefeller Center has also put up a huge array of solar panels on the roof of one of its buildings, and these solar panels help to generate the electricity needed to light the tree.

The tree is generally lighted in a special ceremony in late November or early December, and is left up through early January.  Once taken down, the tree is recycled into almost three tons of wood mulch that are donated to the Boy Scouts of America.  The largest portion of the tree's trunk is donated to the U.S. Equestrian Team headquarters in Gladstone, New Jersey, where it is used as an obstacle jump for the horses and their riders.  In 2007, however, the tree was cut into lumber that was then donated to Habitat for Humanity for use in houses.

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Ellen Bell
Ellen Bell

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