Rockefeller Center is a complex of commercial buildings in New York City between 48th and 51st Streets and Fifth and Sixth Avenues in Midtown, Manhattan. Many of the art deco buildings, mainly those spanning Fifth and Sixth, were commissioned by the Rockefellers, a well-to-do family that made its fortune in the American petroleum industry. Rockefeller Center is among the greatest projects of the Depression Era. It was declared a New York City landmark in 1985 and a National Historic Landmark in 1987. There is also an expansive underground concourse and an ice-skating rink, but the area is perhaps best known for the annual lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree. It was illuminated on December 1st and is now on display for all to see. Families can now enjoy visiting the center to take in the sights and sounds of the city surrounded by the glistening holiday lights of the tree.
Seeing the tree in person is a deeply emotional experience, for there are more than 50,000 multi-colored LED lights on approximately 4 miles of wire which adorn the tree. Today, there is a three-dimensional Swarovski star that weighs approximately 900 lbs. and features 70 spikes covered in 3 million crystals. The star, a spectacular to see, was designed by architect Daniel Libeskind in 2018. For over eight decades, the tree stood as “a holiday beacon” for visitors from near and far. Moreover, the tree tradition humbly began in December of 1931 when construction workers at Rockefeller Center pooled their money together to buy the tree. They decorated a 20-foot-high balsam fir with handmade garland made by their own families. The garland featured strings of cranberries, garlands of paper, and even a few tin cans. In 1933, Rockefeller Center decided to make the tree a traditional event and held the very first tree lighting ceremony there. And, in 1936, two trees graced the center, and a skating pageant was held at the brand-new ice-skating rink on the plaza.
The history of the tree is something to behold. For it wasn’t wealthy people who began the tree tradition, rather it was hard-working folks who came to America as immigrants and carried hope in their hearts, even during difficult times. Taking the family to Rockefeller Center is a memorable event. Whether in attendance for the lighting ceremony or if you’re seeking a later visit, there is much inspiration to be felt. This year’s magnificent tree, from Elkton, MD, is the first from that state. The 79-foot-tall, 12-ton Norway spruce had been standing in the yard of Devon and Julie Price for 85 years. The tree was carefully transported by truck to its showplace to bring joy to the millions of people who see it. And, once the holiday season is over, the tree will be mulched for use in New York City parks, and lumber will be returned to the Cecil County community for use by the local Habitat for Humanity. And, in keeping with tradition, once the tree was taken down, its offspring was planted so that its legacy would live on.
Visitor information: The tree is lit daily from 6 am to 12 am, except for Christmas Day when the tree is lit for 24 hours, and New Year’s Eve, when it’s lit from 6 am to 9 pm. For more valuable information, or to arrange a visit or special tour, head to www.rockefellercenter.com
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