The 2016 Rockefeller Center Christmas tree is a 94-ft. tall Norway spruce wrapped with five miles of LED lights (powered by solar panels on the roof of the Rockefeller Center) and its top is adorned by a Swarovski star made up of 25,000 crystals. The first “unofficial” Rockefeller Center Christmas tree had much humbler beginnings.
Most people couldn’t afford a Christmas tree in 1931, and unemployment in New York was around 20%. Construction of Rockefeller Center breathed life into the city and employed over 40,000 people that were desperate for work during the hard times of the Great Depression. On Christmas Eve, the grateful construction workers pooled their money and purchased a twenty foot balsam fir.
Throwback Thursday: the first Rockefeller center tree was put up by construction workers! Do you put up a tree? pic.twitter.com/4q4gj7Hpaw— Family Tree Magazine (@FamilyTreeMag) December 24, 2015
Placed in the center of the new work site, the unlit tree was decorated with tin cans, paper garland, and cranberries. The foreman sat near the tree and handed out paychecks to the workers before they went home for Christmas.
The first “official” tree took place two years later with a tree twice its size, and has become one of America’s greatest holiday traditions. According to Rockefeller Center’s official website, “the Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center and the holiday decorations adorning and surrounding have stood as a holiday beacon for New Yorkers and visitors alike.”
Rockefeller Center estimates they get 798,000 visitors during the holiday season. After delighting so many, when the tree finally comes down, it’s donated to Habitat for Humanity to be turned into lumber to build homes.
Watch the video to see what a group of construction workers did to surprise a children’s hospital.