Article

NYC's Rockefeller Christmas Tree Is Repurposed After the Holidays

Reduce, reuse, recycle.

Published Dec 22, 2023

 ( Getty Images)
Image Via Getty Images

Every holiday season, New York City is flooded with tens of millions of tourists. And, since the 1930s, their plans often include the iconic Rockefeller Christmas tree.

Typically a Norway spruce standing at approximately 70 to 100 feet and carefully selected each year (for the past three decades!) by Erik Pauze, the head gardener for the Rockefeller Center, Christmas in the city wouldn't be the same without it. However, our readers have been wondering: what happens to the tree once the excitement of the holidays is over?

The (relieving!) answer is that since 2007, it's been donated to Habitat for Humanity and repurposed to provide lumber for homes.

Once it's taken down at the end of the holiday season and chopped into large pieces, the wood is sawed down at a mill in New Jersey and then processed at a landscaping company where it is dried, milled, and planed into smooth two-by-four and two-by-six boards that go on to make flooring, porches, cabinetry, furniture, framing reinforcement, and more.

The first Rockefeller Christmas tree, put up by Rockefeller workers during the Great Depression in 1931. (Image via Rockefeller Center.)

“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," said Jonathan Reckford, CEO of Habitat for Humanity International in an article the organization published about the tree's repurposing. "That symbol will live on as part of Habitat homeowners’ lives in their new houses.”

A children's book titled "The Carpenter's Gift" was published in 2011, celebrating the tradition of turning the Rockefeller Christmas tree into homes.

According to an article published in USA Today, recipients of houses made with Rockefeller Christmas tree lumber are randomly selected, although the lumber typically makes its way back to the same state from which it was donated. However, once recipients have been selected for a Habitat home, they are made aware of the wood's unique history. Some of the exposed areas of wood are typically branded with the year the tree served as the Rockefeller Christmas centerpiece.

Rockefeller Christmas tree wood can be found in homes in Mississippi, New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, and beyond.

(Image via Habitat for Humanity website.)

Sources

Amazon.Com. https://www.amazon.com/The-Carpenters-Gift-Christmas-Rockefeller/dp/0375869220/ref=tmm_hrd_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1344018717&sr=1-1-fkmr0. Accessed 20 Dec. 2023.

From Rockefeller Center in NYC to Window Boxes in Southern Californiawww.youtube.com, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x7V5Ry_xx6A. Accessed 20 Dec. 2023.

‘Iconic Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center Illuminated in Midst of Pro-Palestinian Protest’. AP News, 29 Nov. 2023, https://apnews.com/article/christmas-tree-lighting-new-york-rockefeller-center-745947a9f2d39c7d3649c35d539d95ba.

Meet the Man Who Picks the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree. https://www.rockefellercenter.com/magazine/arts-culture/who-picks-the-rockefeller-center-christmas-tree-every-year/. Accessed 20 Dec. 2023.

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree’s Journey into a Habitat Home | Habitat for Humanity. https://www.habitat.org/stories/rockefeller-center-christmas-trees-journey-habitat-home. Accessed 20 Dec. 2023.

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Part of Habitat for Humanity Home | Habitat for Humanity. https://www.habitat.org/stories/rockefeller-center-christmas-tree-part-habitat-humanity-home. Accessed 20 Dec. 2023.

The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Finds a New Life Helping More Plants Grow | Habitat for Humanity. https://www.habitat.org/stories/rockefeller-center-christmas-tree-finds-new-life-helping-more-plants-grow. Accessed 20 Dec. 2023.

‘The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Tradition Began in 1931. Take a Look Back in Time’. TODAY.Com, 17 Nov. 2023, https://www.today.com/popculture/news/rockefeller-center-christmas-tree-history-rcna125664.

TikTok - Make Your Day. https://www.tiktok.com/@mickmicknyc/video/7297266998285716779. Accessed 20 Dec. 2023.

‘What Happens to Rockefeller Christmas Trees after They Come down? It’s a Worthy New Purpose.’ USA TODAY, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2023/11/30/rockefeller-christmas-trees-come-down-habitat-for-humanity-homes/71755875007/. Accessed 20 Dec. 2023.

Where the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Goes Next | Habitat for Humanity Interview. https://www.rockefellercenter.com/magazine/arts-culture/rock-center-christmas-tree-donation-habitat-for-humanity-interview/. Accessed 20 Dec. 2023.

Taija PerryCook is a Seattle-based journalist who previously worked for the PNW news site Crosscut and the Jordan Times in Amman.