Lifestyle Home A Photographic History of the Rockefeller Christmas Tree Since the first tree in 1931, much has changed — but not the tradition itself By Kate Hogan Updated on December 1, 2022 10:45 AM Share Tweet Pin Email Trending Videos 01 of 18 1931 AP/REX/Shutterstock Construction workers purchased and decorated a 20-ft. tree in the Rockefeller Center construction site on Christmas Eve 1931, as the Great Depression wore on. According to Thrillist, they added just a few decorations: cranberries, paper garland and tin cans. 02 of 18 1934 MCNY/Gottscho-Schleisner/Getty The year 1933 marked the first official tree lighting ceremony, organized by a publicist for Rockefeller Center, according to TIME. The years that followed brought slightly bigger — and much brighter — trees. 03 of 18 1936 In 1936, two trees were erected to celebrate the opening of the now-famous Rockefeller Center ice skating rink. 04 of 18 1950 Frederic Lewis/Getty Rockefeller Center played a big role in the TV boom of the 1950s, translating to even more opulent trees. The tree made its first TV appearance on The Howdy Doody Show, and decorations went from cranberries and popcorn to red garland, white plastic globes, icicle lights and wiry white angel trumpeters. 05 of 18 1955 Morse Collection/Gado/Getty According to Rockefeller Center's website, in the 1950s, "workers began using scaffolding to aid in decorating the trees. Before the decade was over, the process called for 20 men and a period of nine days." 06 of 18 1962 AP/REX/Shutterstock Trees — which are generally donated, not purchased, and scouted by the Rockefeller Center gardening team — continued to get bigger and better throughout the 1960s. And in 1963, another historic first: the tree's wood was recycled, donated to a Boy Scout troop. 07 of 18 1970 As the evergreens grew larger, the means of getting them from their "homes" to New York City grew more creative — like the time a tree was floated down the Hudson River on a barge or when the world's largest transport plane, an Anatov 124, flew a tree in from Ohio. 08 of 18 1973 Bettmann Archive/Getty According to Thrillist, this isn't like your at-home Christmas tree: cold outdoor temperatures keep it fresh, so it doesn't require water. 09 of 18 1982 Bettmann Archive/Getty By the 1980s, the tree reached another milestone: most lights used. The year 1986 boasted a then-record 20,000 lights. 10 of 18 1996 John Stillwell/PA/Getty The 1996 tree was pretty grand, but what came in 1999 was even greater: the largest Rockefeller Center tree ever, hailing from Killingworth, Connecticut, and standing 100-ft. tall. 11 of 18 2004 JULIE JACOBSON/AP/REX/Shutterstock The 2001 tree had special significance: In tribute to the lives lost on Sept. 11 of that year, decorations were in red, white and blue. But by 2004, it was multi-colored again and featured a star made of Swarovski crystals, a tradition that continues today. 12 of 18 2016 Noam Galai/WireImage The second-largest tree to ever grace Rockefeller Center, 2016's centerpiece stood at 94-ft. tall and weighed 14 tons. Angie and Graig Eichler of Oneonta, New York, donated the Norway Spruce, which made its way into Manhattan over the George Washington Bridge. 13 of 18 2017 Michael Loccisano/Getty Weighing 12 tons and measuring 75-ft. tall, 2017's Norway Spruce came from Jason Perrin of State College, Pennsylvania. 14 of 18 2018 Nicholas Hunt/WireImage The 75-year-old, 72-ft. tall Norway spruce "grew up" 70 miles outside Manhattan in upstate Wallkill, New York. According to the Rockefeller Center blog, the tree lived on the property of N.Y.C. transplants and recent retirees Shirley Figueroa and Lissette Gutierrez and was visited five years prior by Rockefeller Center head gardener Erik Pauze. 15 of 18 2019 Benno Schwinghammer/picture alliance/Getty Carol Schultz of Florida, New York, planted her tree 60 years prior in hopes that it would someday be the Rockefeller Center tree, according to the New York Times. "I would talk to it now and then since it's been small," she said. The message: "Someday you're going to be there." Schultz called the 77-ft. Norway spruce her "80th birthday present to the world." 16 of 18 2020 Gary Hershorn/Getty "See? Girlfriend just needed better lighting and a few extensions," Today's Savannah Guthrie joked after the lighting of the 2020 tree, which drew a lot of jokes after appearing quite sparse upon its arrival in N.Y.C. The 75-ft. tall tree was found at Daddy Al's General Store in Oneonta, New York. After it went up, it had the Internet abuzz, thanks to some bare patches and less-than-perky branches. "Wow, you all must look great right after a two-day drive, huh?" the Rockefeller Center Instagram account wrote back to commenters, adding, "Just wait until I get my lights on!" Crews added some branches to the tree — along with the signature sparkly décor — before the big lighting on Dec. 2. 17 of 18 2021 Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Last year's 79-ft. Norway spruce was scouted from Elkton, Maryland, making it the first tree from the Old Line State. It was donated from the yard of the Price family, who was present in N.Y.C. for the 80-year-old tree's arrival in the Big Apple in mid-November. "We never thought a tree on our property would be selected for Rockefeller Center. Nope, not in a million years," Devon Price said on the Today show. "As a family, we've gone from, 'No, we can't let this tree go,' to now, we worry about it. We worry about how it survived a storm or a heavy rain or heavy wind. So, we're very excited to have it go to New York City." 18 of 18 2022 SARAH YENESEL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock It's here! The 2022 tree was lit the night of Nov. 30, illuminated by 50,000 LED bulbs and a shining Swarovski star on top. According to Today, the Norway spruce is a towering 82-ft. tall, 50-ft. wide and tops out at 14 tons. The 85-year-old evergreen came from Queensbury, New York, a small town about three-and-a-half hours north of New York City. A video posted to the Rockefeller Center Instagram showed the early stages of the tree's journey to Manhattan. The stunning topper is covered in 3 million crystals, and weighs almost 900 lbs., Today reports.