The coronavirus pandemic may have altered certain family holiday traditions but the lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree is one tradition that is proceeding as planned. The tree lighting ceremony will be broadcast on NBC tonight, December 2, from 8-10 p.m. ET. The tree was scheduled to be lit promptly at 9:45 p.m.
The tree that was chosen to adorn Rockefeller Center this holiday season is a Norway Spruce that stands 75 feet tall and 45 feet wide. The tree weighs 11 tons and is approximately 75 to 80 years old, according to the Rockefeller Center website.
Here’s what you need to know about the 2020 Rockefeller Christmas Tree:
The 2020 Norway Spruce Was Donated by the Owners of Daddy Al’s General Store in Oneonta, New York
Oneonta is the only city that has donated more than one tree for the famous tree lighting ceremomy. The Daily Star reported a 94-foot tree was donated in 2016.
The Norway Spruce belonged to Allan and Susan Dick, who own Daddy Al’s General Store in Oneonta. The family promoted the tree donation on the store’s Facebook page and encouraged customers to share photos of the spruce. Rockefeller Center posted a video of the team cutting down the Norway Spruce and getting it ready for transport to NYC.
Daddy Al’s tree was scouted years in advance. According to the Daily Star, a Rockefeller Center representative saw the tree in 2016 as he was traveling through the area and thought it would be perfect once it grew a few more feet. The newspaper reported that “every six months over the next four years, Rockefeller officials visited the tree to water and fertilize it, grooming the spruce for its destiny as a New York City landmark.”
Once in New York City, the tree was decorated with more than 50,000 multi-colored LED lights. The Rockefeller Center website notes the lights are held up by wire that stretched about five miles long. The Swarovski star that sits atop the tree is covered with three million crystals and weighs about 900 pounds. Architect Daniel Libeskind designed the star.
A Tiny Owl Was Rescued From the Rockefeller Tree Before It Was Hoisted Into Place
The 2020 tree arrived in midtown Manhattan on November 14. The NYPD provided a security escort and shared a video of the entourage, complete with festive holiday music, on Twitter.
The Norway Spruce was carried in on a 115-foot-long trailer and set up using a crane, WABC-TV reported. But right before workers were about to raise the tree, they had to pause to rescue a tiny bird found within the Norway Spruce.
As National Geographic reported, a northern saw-whet owl was found along the base of the tree. At seven inches tall, the saw-whet owl is among the smallest of North America’s owl species. The female owl was dehydrated but luckily had not been injured during the 200-mile trip to New York City.
Officials from the Ravensbeard Wildlife Center rescued the owl and named her Rockefeller, or Rocky for short. The owner of the organization, Ellen Kalish, told National Geographic that it was a “miracle” the bird had survived the multi-day trip. She theorizes that the owl had been stunned when the tree was chopped down on November 12. “She could have been hiding in a tree cavity or had head trauma and held onto a branch and didn’t move. She may have been in shock.”
Kalish gave the owl food and water and watched her fly in an enclosed space to double-check for injuries. Kalish released Rocky back into the wild on November 24. The wildlife center has since created merchandise bearing Rocky’s picture and announced that all proceeds will go toward helping the center “rescue, rehab, and release wild birds back into their natural habitats.”
The Tree Lighting Ceremony Was Closed to In-Person Spectators This Year
Long-time fans of the annual Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree lighting ceremony will notice a significant difference from years past. No crowds will be visible in the plaza. Organizers made the decision to keep the ceremony closed to the public this year.
But for those that plan to be in New York City this holiday season, there will be plenty of opportunities to see the tree in all its glory. Starting December 3, the tree will be open to visitors daily from 6 a.m. until midnight. The tree will be lit for 24 hours on Christmas Day. Visiting hours on December 31 are from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Visitors cannot walk all the way into the plaza to see the tree. Rockefeller Center explained on its website that “tree viewing entrances will be located on 49th and 50th streets and 5th and 6th Avenues ONLY.” Masks are mandatory and groups of no more than four will be directed to pods that are six feet apart from each other. The New York Times noted visitors will have only five minutes to observe the tree.