It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Today the Rockefeller Center tree is going up and you can watch it on a live cam. According to NBC, this year’s tree is a 78-foot, 10-ton spruce cut down from the Gardiner property of Albert Asendorf and Nancy Puchalski in Ulster County. It traveled 80 miles from Ulster in an 115-foot trailer before arriving in the city. While the official lighting ceremony won’t happen until December 2nd, you can brush up on the tree’s history below.
The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree tradition began in 1931 during the Great Depression, but the tradition of tree lighting in public spaces actually started in Madison Square Park in 1912. A group of construction workers at Rockefeller Center decided to put up a 20-foot tree to celebrate their upcoming paycheck. Two years later, it became an official ceremony.
By 1951, the tree had grown in both size and popularity. NBC filmed the first tree light ceremony on The Kate Smith Show. In the 1970s, the growing environmental movement prompted the tradition of recycling the tree.
The tree has also gone through many stylistic changes since its humble beginnings during the Depression. Its earlier decorations consisted of tin cans and scrap paper. As early as 1934, organizers crafted ornaments shaped like animals, stars and sailboats. It has been spray-painted white, covered in cranberries and popcorn, and adorned 10-foot long aluminum icicles. A man has even tried to scale it, resembling a human ornament.
The most important ornament of all, the star, has also gone through various phases. In the 1950s and 60s, they used a 4-foot plastic star. It was upgraded in the 90s to a fiberglass and gold leaf star. Now, a 10-foot, 550 lb. crystal star sits atop the tree. The Swarovski star, crafted by German artist Michael Hammers, is made up of 25,000 crystals and has 1 million facets.
To watch the live streaming of the tree lighting ceremony, check out NBC’s feed here. Next, discover 5 quirky things you probably didn’t know about the Rockefeller tree and take a look at these vintage photos it and other Christmas trees in New York.