Surprising truth: What happens to the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree after Christmas

There is no sure sign of Christmas that tops the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree in New York City. It’s celebrated in movies, photographs and on television during the NBC tree lighting broadcast year after year. It’s believed that approximately 125 million people visit the tree annually.

Most of us are too distracted by the post-holiday blues to think about what happens to the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree once Christmas ends. Does it get thrown away? Recycled? In this article we’ll reveal the surprising truth of what happens to the Rockefeller Christmas tree after the holidays.

It all started in 1931

The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree tradition began during the Great Depression and was constructed by local laborers of the city. The first tree was decorated with what people had available to contribute from their home such as paper, strings and even cans. In 1931 the tree was a humble 20 feet tall, a far cry from the 69 to 100 foot tall trees that light up the city center in modern day.

The yearly tradition has evolved with history. From war periods, to a 900lb designer ornament, the tree continues to flood the city center with an abundance of Christmas spirit every holiday season.

A Home for the Holidays

The Christmas period ignites a time of unity for families across the world. Spending time at home with loved ones during the holidays has become a cultural pastime that many of us have grown accustomed to looking forward to. But what about the families who aren’t fortunate enough to have a place to call home?

Amazingly, the famous Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree extends the season of giving after Christmas has ended. Since 2007, it has become an annual tradition to donate the lumber from the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree to Habitat for Humanity which is used to build a home for a family in need. This tradition is celebrated as one of the most unique Christmas pastimes in New York City.

From New York to Mississippi

The lumber from the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree has been used for building homes across the country from New York to Mississippi.

Although the farm the tree is chosen from changes from year to year, the type of tree tends to remain consistent. Due to its short growth speed, thick branches, and idealistic shape the operations team at Rockefeller Center typically choose the Norway Spruce as their tree of choice.

The Norway Spruce not only looks great dressed in lights within the city center, but contains a flexible lumber that is preferred for building. Compared to a lumber for load-bearing walls, the wood of the Norway Spruce is more durable and can be the perfect type of lumber for flooring, cabinets, furniture or manipulating frames.

A Christmas Unity

Jonathan Reckford, the CEO of Habitat for Humanity International, spoke about the partnership and the generous revitalization of the tree by saying, “The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree is a reminder to reflect, be thankful and to remember to give back to others among the hustle and bustle of the holidays. That symbol will live on as part of Habitat homeowners’ lives in their new houses.”

Habitat for Humanity International employees commemorate the partnership in their headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. The office space features walls of exposed lumber from Rockefeller Center trees from Christmas’ past as a year round reminder of the gift that keeps on giving from tradition that began 90 years ago.