11/28/2017 02:23 pm ET

Here's Where The Rockefeller Center Tree Comes From

The origin of both the tradition and 2017's tree.
The 2016 tree all aglow.
NBC via Getty Images
The 2016 tree all aglow.

“222 Words” is a series that gives you brief, 222-word explanations to the questions that would normally get lost in a day’s news cycle. Read them while you’re bored at work.


New York City had a big year in 1931. President Herbert Hoover “dedicated” the Empire State Building, the world’s tallest for decades. That year, construction also started on another skyscraper, 30 Rockefeller Plaza, a part of Rockefeller Center.

At that site, construction workers erected a Christmas tree, starting what is now one of the country’s most famous holiday traditions.

Over the years, the annual Christmas tree has taken many forms  ― once it was covered in silver paint; another time there were actually three trees, painted a patriotic red, white and blue. These days, Rockefeller Center’s head gardener, Erik Pauze, picks the year’s towering tree and has done so since 2010.

Part of Pauze’s job is to scout trees with potential and then ask the respective owners if they’d be willing to donate their tree for the tradition. Once a tree is approved, Pauze has arborists and other professionals nurse the tree into super strength ― a process that takes years.

The Christmas tree hunting expert spotted the 2017 tree in 2010 at Pennsylvania’s State College. After the initial scouting, the Norway spruce ended up becoming 75 feet tall and weighing 12 tons.

Pauze is clearly proud of his role in the seasonal spirit. In 2011, he put it succinctly to The New York Times: “You got to make Christmas look good.”



For more on this subject ...

AM New York researched trivia about the Rockefeller Center tradition.

The New York Times did a mini-profile on Erik Pauze in 2011, early on in his tenure of choosing the tree.

Quartz focused on a time Pauze had trouble convincing a tree’s owner to donate it for the celebration.

The Rockefeller Center website is clearly excited about the interest in the tree and posited Pauze “might have the coolest job in NYC.”