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Here’s What Happens to the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree When the Holidays Are Over

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Plenty of people celebrate Christmas by bringing a Christmas tree into their homes, but nobody does it quite like the folks at Rockefeller Center. Nearly every year for more than 80 years, a gigantic behemoth of a Christmas tree has taken center stage at the Rockefeller Plaza. 

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The tree attracts millions of admirers each year — and for good reason! It’s absolutely stunning. But we all know that Christmas trees don’t last forever. So we started to wonder — what happens after the holidays? When do they take down the tree at Rockefeller Center? And what happens to it after that?

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When do they take down the tree at Rockefeller Center?

Don’t worry, you have plenty of time to see the tree (assuming that you live near New York City...or that your parents accidentally leave you there by yourself, Home Alone 2-style). Last year’s tree was up until Jan. 7, but it looks like this year’s will be up and decorated for a bit longer.

This year’s tree first arrived at Rockefeller Plaza on Nov. 9. Decorating the tree took place over the course of the next few days, with the Swarovski star being raised to the top of the tree on Nov. 13. The Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting for 2019 takes place on Dec. 4. On Christmas day, the lights will shine for a full 24 hours.

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According to the Rockefeller Center website, visiting hours for the Christmas tree take place daily from 6 a.m. to midnight (except for on New Year’s Eve, when they are from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.). Visiting hours last through Friday, Jan. 17, 2020. Presumably, the tree will come down on Saturday, Jan. 18. That’s when the holiday magic really happens.

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What do they do with the tree at Rockefeller Center after Christmas?

When the holidays are officially over, the Rockefeller Center tree gets a new life — and helps people in need, too! For the past 12 years, the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree has been donated to Habitat for Humanity. 

The tree comes down and is milled, treated, and made into lumber, which is then used to build homes for people in need. This year’s tree will become the thirteenth Rockefeller Center Christmas tree to be donated to this worthy cause. Doesn’t that just fill you right up with holiday cheer?

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This heartwarming tradition even inspired a children’s book called The Carpenter’s Gift. It was written by David Rubel and illustrated by Jim LaMarche. The book was published in 2011 in collaboration with Habitat for Humanity. 

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It tells the story of 8-year-old Henry, who plants a pinecone from the first-ever Rockefeller Center Christmas tree after his neighbors come together to fix his family’s home. Many years later, Henry donates the enormous tree that has grown from the pinecone to become the new Rockefeller Center tree, and that tree is then used as lumber for other family homes.

(Psst! Looking for a way to recycle your own Christmas tree? Check out this list of ideas from the National Christmas Tree Association. Apparently, a lot of zoos accept donated Christmas trees and feed them to the animals!)

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