The Lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree: An American tradition

Nick Crafa, Contributor

The annual lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree aired live on Wednesday, December 4 on NBC. Widely considered one of the most spectacular events of the holiday season, millions of Americans watched the iconic tree light up for the first time this holiday season.
The first time a Christmas tree was placed in Rockefeller Center was in 1931, when workers decorated a smaller 20 foot (6.1 m) balsam fir with strings of cranberries, garlands of paper, and even a few tin cans on Christmas Eve. The first official tree, however, was recognized two years later. In 1936, a skating rink was added underneath the tree. Large-scale decorations were first used during World War II, when simple red, white, and blue ornaments were placed on the tree. Throughout the war, several changes were made, including the addition of two more trees in 1942, each one representing a color of the American flag.

The first Christmas Tree in Rockefeller Center, erected in 1931

Finally, 20 years after the placement of the first tree, NBC televised the lighting of the Tree on The Kate Smith Show in 1951. Rockefeller Center took a big step in 1971, when they mulched and recycled the tree for the first time. The tree’s appearance has been altered several times for various reasons. The largest tree had a height of 100 ft in 1999.
The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree has been a tradition for over 80 years, and hopefully it will continue. From a small celebration of Christmastime, to a national event and a symbol of the holiday season, the annual lighting of the tree has prevailed through the Great Depression, several wars, and 9/11. In a sense, the lighting represents more than just a Christmas tree. It represents the American pride that we all feel.