The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Costs Way Less Than You Think to Select, Ship, and Display

Callie (Carlos) Cadorniga - Author

Nov. 30 2023, Published 12:04 p.m. ET

The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree in 2023
Source: Getty Images

The Gist:

  • People are curious as to how much the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree costs.
  • People have previously broken down what goes into the tree's maintenance.
  • The tree lighting ceremony takes place at the end of November every year.
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There are a few universally revered hallmarks that indicate that the holiday season is truly in full swing. There's the Christmas music that plays on repeat everywhere you go, the bright festive decorations, the mad rush of shoppers trying to wrap up their gift-getting, and in the US, there's the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree. Every year, New York City chooses a Norway spruce tree that stands anywhere from 69 to 100 feet tall and decorate it with an array of Christmas tree lights.

It stands tall and proud throughout the holiday season and has remained a staple for US Christmas celebrations since 1931.

By now, the process of selecting and displaying a tree is pretty standard. But every year, the same few questions crop up surrounding the tree's existence. Perhaps most prominent is the question of how much the tree actually costs. The answer may surprise you.

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The top of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree
Source: Getty Images

The annual cost for the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree is way lower than you think.

When it comes to selecting a tree, there are plenty to choose from. The tree is always chosen by Rockefeller Center head gardener Erik Pauzé, who peruses an annual selection of trees from locations like upstate New York, its surrounding states, and even in Canada. Sometimes, trees can also be submitted for consideration on the Rockefeller Center's official website.

Trees are chosen based on their shape and their ability to hold decorations and lights.

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Once a tree is chosen, it gets cut and loaded onto a custom trailer to be transported to Rockefeller Center. Once at its destination, it is displayed with four guy-wired and a steel spike. Workers on scaffolding hang more than 50,000 Christmas lights around the tree and it's topped with an annually-made crystal star made of Swarovski crystal.

Considering how much effort is put into displaying a tree every year, you would think the tree itself is very valuable and costly. Shockingly enough, however, the tree is worth... nothing!

Every selected tree is actually considered a donation. As such, Rockefeller Center doesn't pay for the tree itself. As for the people who donate it, sources like NBC claim that they are paid in "millions of smiles."

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The McGinley family who donated the 2023 Rockefeller Tree even stated in an interview, "We feel incredibly lucky for the opportunity to be of service to millions of people. How often in one's life time do you get to do something that will bring millions of people joy?"

For all intents, the tree itself is a testament to the generousness of the holiday spirit. However, TimeOut does report that transportation costs can reach upwards of $70,000. At least some money is flying for the people who put all this hard work into moving a massive tree. The season of giving isn't free, after all!

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