Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree - The Unofficial National Tree

Rockefeller Center Always Has a Norway Spruce:

The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree is nearly always a Norway spruce. This Norwegian tree is not native to the United States and will not be found naturally in any North American forest. It is usually planted as an ornamental. Tree growers send in tree photos with hope that their tree might be selected. The Rockefeller Center Gardens manager is always looking for the perfect tree.

The top annual selections are flown over, critically inspected and the best tree picked.

The Largest Cut Christmas Tree Display in the World:

The desired dimension for a Rockefeller Center Norway spruce is a minimum of 65 feet tall and 35 feet wide. A tree smaller than that will only be considered as a future candidate. Trees from 75 to 90 feet tall are the preferred size and the tree is usually older than 50 years. After the tree is cut, the head gardener for Rockefeller Center counts the stump rings to get a more accurate measure of its age. A Norway spruce typically lives about as long as a human, from 80 to 100 years.

Interesting Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Facts:

  • The farthest distance a tree has ever traveled was approximately 518 miles - from Ottawa, Canada.
  • The tree travels in the middle of the night with a police escort on a carefully planned route so traffic is disrupted as little as possible.
  • The first nationally televised Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree lighting was in 1951 on the "Kate Smith Show".
  • It takes two dozen electricians on scaffolding to decorate the branches with 30,000 lights attached to five miles of wire.
  • The Rockefeller Center Tree Tradition:

    The tradition of the tree began in the Great Depression during the construction of the Rockefeller Center complex in 1931.

    The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree tradition formally began in 1933 when a tree, strung with 700 lights, was placed in front of the old RCA Building, now the GE Building. A Rockefeller Plaza outdoor ice skating pond was added in 1936. NBC-TV first televised the tree lighting in 1951 and as part of the nationwide "Howdy Doody" television show from 1953-55.