The Rockefeller Center

The Rockefeller CenterWith its art deco buildings, Rockefeller Center is an icon synonymous to the vibrant city of New York. The commercial center had a shaky beginning as its development coincided with the Stock Market Crash of 1929. Fortunately, thanks to John D. Rockefeller’s boldness, the development project pushed through and was completed in 1931.

The impressive center is a complex made up of 14 buildings and was eventually named after the ambitious financer behind it. To this day, it is one of New York’s most famous spots for visitors and also holds an enduring Christmas tradition, the lighting of the Rockefeller Christmas Tree.

The coniferous tree (Norway Spruce, usually) is put up on the first week of November with the lighting ceremony taking place a week after Thanksgiving. The tree stays illuminated for the rest of the season and is then pulled down for recycling a week into the New Year.

Over the years, Rockefeller Center tree has served to illuminate New York’s posh shopping district and has symbolized the state’s wealth and stability. According to the Center’s spokesman, Keith Douglas, the tree attracts an estimated 75,000 tourists daily. However, like most icons – the tree had a humble beginning.

It was on December 24, 1931 when workers first put up and decorated a 20-ft balsam fir tree in the middle of the construction project. Done in the style of classic Christmas trees, the tree didn’t have much adornment except for strings and garlands of cranberries and paper. Several pieces of tin can were also thrown in as embellishment and according to Daniel Okrent’s recount of the history, even the tin foil ends of blasting caps were thrown in for that shining, shimmering effect. The official Rockefeller Christmas tree tradition began in 1933 and its annual lighting ceremony has been drawing hundreds of visitors and media attention since.

The Rockefeller tree is chosen from trees in areas such as Vermont, Canada, Ohio, upstate New York and New Jersey. Once a suitable tree is selected, the tree is cut down and transported via custom telescoping trailer to Rockefeller Center.

The tree is put in place with a sturdy combination of wires and steel spikes. The tree is then dedicated with 30,000 lights and since 2004, has been topped by a 9 1/2 foot Christmas Star designed by German artist, Michael Hammers.

In recent years, Rockefeller Center has pursued an eco-friendly policy and had its famous Christmas tree decorated with LED lights. The LED lights are more energy efficient, eco-friendly an also provide more beautiful and stunning illumination.

Again, in their effort to demonstrate corporate responsibility, Rockefeller Center donated the 2007 tree to New Orleans to be used as wood to rebuild homes lost to Katrina. Since then, the annual tree’s lumber has been donated to Habitat For Humanity.

Much welcomed by the non-profit organization, Marci Gurton of the Habitat For Humanity commented, “The special nature of this gift (also) raises awareness about the critical need for affordable housing.”

With these trends, the Rockefeller Christmas Tree is seeking to become more than a symbol of pride and wealth. In today’s ever growing awareness and demand for individual and corporate responsibility, the Rockefeller Christmas Tree also signifies an important step into the right direction.right direction. We can all agree that it is a move that Christmas Spirit would appreciate.