For those visiting New York City during the holiday season, the epitome of Christmas in the city can be found at the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree. This tree, located in the heart of Rockefeller Plaza, is as synonymous with Christmas as Santa Clause is. Each year, about 125 million people visit the tree.
How did this whole thing get started? When was the first Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree put up? Throughout my experiences for this bucket list, I’ve always been amazed with how much history there is in this city. The Tree is no different.
While we’re used to the grand splendor of the Christmas Tree today, its beginnings were a lot more humble. While Rockefeller Center was being constructed (during the Depression), workers would pool their money for a tree (typically a 20-foot one, compared to this year’s 75-foot monster), and decorate it with strings of cranberry, garlands of paper, and even tin cans.
The official first tree was lit in 1933, which is the same year Rockefeller Center opened. Since then, decorations have ranged from patriotic (during World War 2 and in 2001 after 9/11) to green (LED lights have been used since 2007), and the tree is recycled each year and used to build homes with Habitat for Humanity.
In addition to the beautiful lighting, tree visitors enjoy 12 wire angels made by artist Valerie Clarebout. These angels were added in 1969, and I think they really make Rockefeller Center shine. Having a big Christmas Tree is one thing, but all of the other details just add so much more to the atmosphere.
Each year, the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting is televised nationwide, and is widely considered to be the official start to the holiday season. This year, they lit the tree on November 29th, and it will stay up until January 7th.
The 2017 Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree is a Norway Spruce that stands at 75 feet. It comes to us from State College, Pennsylvania, and has about 50,000 multi-colored lights. Pictures don’t do it justice — you need to see it in person!
Despite growing up in New York, I had never taken the time to visit the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree. The thought of crowds of people looking at a tree just seemed so…boring to me. For my first time, I had a lot of fun checking out the sights and taking pictures. Rockefeller Center really lights up from all the holiday cheer, and seeing everyone ice skating under the Christmas lights brought a big smile to my face. I’ll definitely be coming back each year to see the newest tree!
How can you make your visit to the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree a special one? For one, I highly recommend going as early as you can. If you walk through the area, you’ll notice many barricades set up. Millions of people pass through Rockefeller Center each day, and it becomes so congested that it kind of ruins the experience. I went at 7:00 a.m. on a Sunday, and I got to take as many pictures as I wanted, without feeling rushed or crushed by everyone around me. There is also the famous Rockefeller Center Ice Skating Rink, which offers fun for everyone. Skate rentals are available ($12), and they also offer lessons. Once again, go early, especially if you want to hit the rink.
Once you’re done taking pictures, you can keep celebrating Christmas by checking out the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall. This is also on my list (coming soon!), and I’m excited to finally head into Radio City. In the meantime, you can enjoy how beautiful it all looks for the holiday.
Visiting the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree may sound like a super touristy thing to do, but it’s so worth it. Embrace your inner Christmas cheer and head there today! Just remember…the earlier the better!