Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

The 2023 Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

The 2023 Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

The centerpiece of every NYC Christmas season is the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree. People travel from all over the world to see this behemoth Norway spruce. Let’s examine a bit of the history of the Rockefeller Center Christmas, learn more about this year’s tree, and find out what happens to the Rockefeller Tree after the holiday season.




The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree is a true icon of the holiday season, capturing the hearts of millions every year. Its origins are deeply rooted in tradition and community, reflecting the spirit of joy and unity.

The story of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree dates back to the early 1930s during the Great Depression. In 1931, construction workers building Rockefeller Center put up a small, modest Christmas tree at the site. The tree was less than 20 feet tall and decorated with garlands made by the construction workers’ families. This humble beginning marked the start of what would become a beloved tradition.

By 1933, the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony had become a tradition. Since then, the annual tree lighting ceremony at Rockefeller Center has grown into a grand event, attracting locals and tourists alike, symbolizing hope and holiday cheer.


One of the most fascinating aspects of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree is its selection process. Each year, a team, led by Rockefeller Center’s head architect Erik Pauze, scours forests in search of the perfect tree. Usually it is a Norway spruce, standing tall and proud, often reaching towering heights of over 70 feet. The chosen tree is then donated by its owner, who proudly contributes to this cherished tradition.

This year’s tree is donated by the McGinley family of Vestal, New York. They moved into their current home fairly recently, and had not given much thought to the giant Norway spruce outside. Then everything changed when Erik Pauze knocked on their door this past March. The hardest part of the whole hullabaloo for the McGinley family was keeping it secret. They are thrilled the secret is now out and the tree gets to be shared with the world. 



Transporting the massive tree from its original location to Rockefeller Center is no small feat. The tree embarks on a journey, carefully loaded onto a specialized flatbed truck, often accompanied by a police escort. Its arrival in New York City is greeted with excitement and anticipation, marking the beginning of its transformation into a dazzling spectacle.

The decorating process is a meticulous affair, with 50,000 LED lights. In 2018, a brand new, shiny star was designed for the tree by Daniel Libeskind. Daniel Libeskind was also the master planner for the new World Trade Center site. The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree star, designed by Daniel Libeskind, weighs 900 pounds and is covered in 3 million Swarovski crystals. It needs to be hoisted to the top using a crane, and once illuminated, it looks like a comet! 


The lighting ceremony itself is a star-studded affair, featuring performances by renowned artists and culminating in the illumination of the tree. This year the headliners are Cher and Chloe Bailey.  As the switch is flipped, the tree comes to life in a glorious display of lights, captivating the audience and ushering in the holiday season with sheer brilliance.The lighting ceremony will also be showcased live on NBC. 



After the holiday season, the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree is donated to Habitat for Humanity. The tree is transformed into lumber and branded with a special “Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree” logo. It will provide housing and joy for a lucky family for years to come.

Beyond its dazzling appearance, the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree represents more than just a symbol of the holidays. It embodies the spirit of generosity, community, and unity, bringing people together from all walks of life to celebrate joy, hope, and goodwill.

Over the years, the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree has become a beacon of light and a symbol of resilience, standing tall through challenges and uplifting spirits during difficult times. Its radiant presence continues to evoke a sense of wonder and enchantment, reminding us of the magic of the season and the importance of coming together in unity and joy.

As each year passes, the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree remains a timeless tradition, weaving its way into the hearts of millions and continuing to spread holiday cheer around the world.

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