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The History of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

In 1931, workers at Rockefeller Center pooled their money to purchase a 20-ft. tall balsam fir tree. They decorated it with handmade garlands that their families made and thus began a tradition. In 1933, the first tree lighting ceremony was held at Rockefeller Center. That first official Rockefeller tree was a 50 ft. pine and was decorated with 700 lights. During World War II, Rockefeller Center continued the tradition but used a few modifications. In 1942, three smaller trees were used and all were decorated patriotically in red, white, and blue. However, they were unlit due to blackout regulations. In 1999, Rockefeller Center displayed the largest tree used to date — it was 100 ft. tall and hailed from Killingworth, Connecticut. In 2001, Rockefeller Center once again used a patriotic theme when decorating that year’s tree in the wake of the Sept. 11th terrorist attacks. In 2004, the tree received a 550 lb. Swarovski star featuring 25,000 crystals and 1 million facets. A new Swarovski star was made in 2018. It was designed by architect Daniel Libeskind and featured 3 million Swarovski crystals, 70 triangular spikes, and LED backlighting. Today, the tradition continues and the Rockefeller Center Head Gardener Erik Pauze, who is in charge of finding the trees, selected an 80-foot-tall Norway spruce from Vestal, New York as the 2023 tree.

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