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Where the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Goes Next

By Paulina CajigalNov 9 2022

Every year, head gardener for Rockefeller Center Erik Pauze scouts the nation for the perfect Norway Spruce to become the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree. And every year, thousands of people gather on Center Plaza (and online) to witness 50,000 multi-colored LED lights glow for the first time in the season.

If Rockefeller Center’s annual Tree Lighting Ceremony signals the start of the holidays, then the Tree’s departure marks its end. But the magic doesn’t stop there. Ever wonder where the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree goes after the holiday season? Since 2007, the tree has been donated to Habitat for Humanity International to be milled into lumber.

The Center Magazine spoke with a spokesperson from Habitat for Humanity International, who filled us in on what happens to the Tree once it comes down for the season.

2021 Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony

Can you tell us a bit about Habitat for Humanity’s mission?

Habitat for Humanity is a global housing nonprofit that works in local communities in all 50 U.S. states and in more than 70 countries, partnering with individuals and families to build and improve affordable homes. Through financial support, volunteering, or advocacy, everyone can help families achieve the strength, stability, and self-reliance they need to build better lives for themselves. Through shelter, we empower.

How does the partnership with Rockefeller Center support this?

For the past 15 years, Rockefeller Center, has generously donated lumber milled from the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree to Habitat for Humanity. Partnerships like this one play a critical role in helping Habitat build and maintain strong and stable communities by driving awareness of Habitat’s work and providing a resource for the homes that Habitat builds.

Rockefeller Center usually selects a Norway spruce as its holiday focal point. Is this a particularly good wood to build with?

The wood from a Norway spruce is flexible and durable, which makes it good for use in flooring, furniture, and cabinetry.

What happens each year after the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree is taken down?

The Tree cut into large pieces, which are transported from Rockefeller [Center] to a mill in New Jersey where the initial rough sawing is done. From there, the pieces are brought to a landscaping company to be dried in a kiln, milled, and planed until they are soft and smooth. The finished beams are then shipped to the Habitat affiliate chosen to receive the lumber.

Can you tell us a little more about how Habitat chooses where the lumber goes and for what projects?

In most cases, the lumber is sent to a Habitat affiliate in the state where the tree was grown. The receiving affiliate then determines how the lumber will be used. Lumber from the 2011 and 2014 Trees was used to build the framework of multiple homes in Philadelphia. Wood from the 2007 Tree was used to build a new home with a family in Pascagoula, Mississippi that was displaced by Hurricane Katrina. In Bridgeport, Connecticut, a few beams from the 2013 Tree were incorporated into every home built for several years.

How long does it take for communities to receive the lumber after it’s been milled?

The time it takes for the lumber to reach the Habitat for Humanity affiliate varies based on current demand at the company where the beams are finished, and also the receiving affiliate’s distance from the company.

Do recipients have the opportunity to work with Habitat Humanitarians to decide how the lumber is repurposed? Where in Habitat homes is this lumber typically incorporated?

The receiving Habitat affiliate determines how the lumber will be used, so this varies from site to site. In the past, the wood has been used in parts of the home where it can be seen by the family every day, and some Habitat homes even have exposed pieces of lumber branded with stamps commemorating its time as the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree.

What do you believe is the best part about this partnership?

This generous yearly donation has become a symbol of renewal, as the lumber from these trees takes on a new purpose: sheltering Habitat homeowners for generations to come.

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