All About the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

The Lighting Ceremony, Hours, and Tree Details

ROCKEFELLER CENTER, CHRISTMAS, NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK
••• Marvin E. Newman/The Image Bank/Getty Images

The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree is a world-renowned symbol of the holidays in New York City. The free tree lighting ceremony is open to the public. The ceremony includes live performances for bystanders packing the city streets, sidewalks, and walkways leading up to Rockefeller Plaza and the millions of viewers watching it live on television.

An estimated 125 million people visit the attraction each year.

The 2017 tree will be lit for the first time on Wednesday, November 29, 2017, and can be viewed until 9 p.m. on January 7, 2018. The tree usually goes up mid-November.

Lighting Ceremony

The annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony is televised and features musical performances from a variety of popular artists. Typically, the Radio City Rockettes perform and there are also ice skaters performing at the Rockefeller Ice Rink.

Illuminated Hours

The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree is typically illuminated from 5:30 a.m. until midnight daily, except on Christmas and New Year's Eve. On Christmas, the tree is illuminated for 24 hours and on New Year's Eve the lights are turned off at 9 p.m.

Details About the Tree

The Christmas tree that adorns Rockefeller Center is typically a Norway spruce. The minimum requirement for the tree is that it must be at least 75 feet tall and 45 feet wide in diameter, however, the manager of Rockefeller Center gardens prefers the tree be up to 90 feet tall and proportionally wide.

The Norway spruce that grow in forests do not typically reach these proportions, so the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree tends to be one that was ornamentally planted in a person's front or backyard. There is no compensation offered in exchange for the tree, other than the pride of having donated the tree that appears in Rockefeller Center.

More than five miles of lights are used to decorate the tree every year. Only the lights and the star decorate the tree. After the holiday season ends, the tree is milled, treated, and made into lumber that Habitat for Humanity uses for building a home.

Prior to 2007, the tree had been recycled and the mulch was donated to the Boy Scouts. The largest portion of the trunk was donated to the U.S. Equestrian team in New Jersey to be used as an obstacle jump.

The Christmas tree is a tradition that dates back to 1931, when Depression-era construction workers erected the first tree on the center plaza block, where the tree is now raised every year. 

The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree is one of many Christmas trees in New York City.

Location and Subways

Rockefeller Center is located in the center of the complex of buildings between 47th and 50th Streets and 5th and 7th Avenues. For an illustrated view of the neighborhood, including the attractions nearby, check out the Rockefeller Center map.

The closest subway trains to Rockefeller Center are the B, D, F, M trains, which stop at 47-50 Sts/Rockefeller Center, or the 6, which goes to 51st Street/Lexington Avenue.