10 Facts about the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree in New York

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The holiday season in NYC only truly starts once the Rockefeller Christmas Tree has been set up and its lights have been lit. The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting is an event in and of itself and has been a longstanding tradition since 1933 when the first Christmas tree was put up in front of the Rockefeller Center. 

10 Mindblowing Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Facts

Before we dive into the facts, let us give you a quick idea of when you can see the famous Christmas tree in New York. The Rockefeller Center Tree is typically cut down at the beginning of November before it arrives at Rockefeller Plaza in mid-November. That doesn’t mean yet that it will be decorated right away! First, the tree needs to be trimmed to guarantee the beautiful look we all know. After the trim, which typically takes about a week, the decorating-process starts and doesn’t finish until the day of the lighting ceremony. The Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting Ceremony typically takes place at the end of November or early December. It always falls on the Wednesday after Thanksgiving, which is the third Thursday in November. Once lit, the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree will stay in New York until early January.

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

1. This thing is huge!

Of course, everything is super-sized in New York City. The Christmas tree is no exception and the famous Norway Spruce typically comes in at a height of around 85 feet.

2. A true heavyweight

The sparkling tree weighs about 13 tons.

3. It is full of sparkle and glitter

The tree branches are lit with approx. 50,000 LED lights that need nearly 7 miles of electrical wire! That’s enough wire to span once around the circumference of Central Park!

4. The tree topper is not a bargain

The only thing that could possibly outdo the thousands of lights is the sparkling Christmas star tree topper. It is made from 25,000 real Swarovski crystals and is either light nor cheap. It weighs an astonishing 900 pounds and costs about $1.5 million.

5. Beautifully aged

The spruces grow for over 90 years in order to have the honor of being the centerpiece of NYC’s beginning to the holiday season. The first tree lighting ceremony dates to 1933 meaning the trees are older than the ceremony itself.

6. The tree has come a long way

Every year, the tree is donated and comes from a different town, sometimes hundreds of miles away from Rockefeller Plaza. Oftentimes, however, it comes from New York or Pennsylvania.

7. Very Popular

On average, the Christmas tree gets 500,000 visitors a day! That comes to a total of 18 million Christmas visitors during its time as the centerpiece of Rockefeller Plaza.

8. Solar Energy

The tree consumes an incredible 1,297-kilowatt-hours per day. These come in large part from solar cells installed at Rockefeller Center. A good thing – I don’t think anyone wants to pay that power bill!

9. For a good cause

Once the lights are turned off in January, the wood of the tree is donated to charity. For many years, it was mulched and then spread throughout New York’s parks. But then doors and door frames were made from the wood and donated to those in need. Sometimes the tree was also turned into paper.

10. The most popular photo at Christmas time

No surprises here – the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Plaza is something you need to take a picture of. Standing there in its whole beauty the tree is THE photo to take in New York during the Christmas season.

About the author

I fell in love with NYC when I was young and visited for the first time. This love has only grown over the years and has grown into a full-grown passion. I’m always on the lookout for better deals, more things to do, and the best tips & tricks that I wish I knew on my first couple trips to NYC!

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Alicia B Jones

Please clarify whether the tree will be lit on Nov 28 or Dec 4th. We are planning our trip to NYC and my travel friend has never been before. We wanted very much to include this on our itinerary. This article mentions both dates.

Maureen Steinert

Hi Alicia,

the Christmas Tree Lighting will take place on December 4th this year 🙂



I was wondering when the tree is going up. I know it will be lit on December 4th but I have a friend I am bringing to the city and wondering if the tree itself will be up (not lit) the day after Thanksgiving.

Maureen Steinert

Hi Kim,

the tree will already be in NYC! It arrives on November 9th 🙂



Any chance you know an exact date when the tree will come down/go dark? Looking to book an early January 2020 trip to NYC and want to know what dates I’ll still be able to see the tree 🙂

Maureen Steinert

Hi Rebecca,

it’s typically there until the first week of January. Last year’s tree, for example, stood at Rockefeller Center until January 7th. Right now, the official website only states “until early 2020” with no exact date. Once it is announced, we will be posting it!



Will the rest of the city decorations be lit before the 4th of December. We go home that day😞

Maureen Steinert

Hi Catriona,

yes, a lot of decorations will be lit! The holiday windows will be revealed starting this week. There are a few trees in other places that will be lit by then, too! I will reach out to you via email with more details!


Maria Elena

When is the Rockefeller Christmas tree lighting in December 2020?


Hi Maria,

the lighting should be on December 2nd! The Wednesday after Thanksgiving.


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