Ever Wondered What Happens to the Rockefeller Christmas Tree After the Holidays?

Every year, the iconic New York Christmas tradition takes on new life.

Published Dec 20, 2023

 ( Getty Images)
Image Via Getty Images

Since the 1930s, New York has been lit up for the holidays by the Rockefeller Christmas tree. Typically a Norway spruce standing at approximately 70 to 100 feet and carefully selected each year (for the past three decades!) by Erik Pauze, the head gardener for the Rockefeller Center, Christmas in the city wouldn't be the same without it. However, our readers have been wondering: what happens to the tree once the excitement of the holidays is over?

The (relieving!) answer is that since 2007, it's been donated to Habitat for Humanity and repurposed to provide lumber for homes.

Once it's taken down at the end of the holiday season and chopped into large pieces, the wood is sawed down at a mill in New Jersey and then processed at a landscaping company where it is dried, milled, and planed into smooth two-by-four and two-by-six boards that go on to make flooring, porches, cabinetry, furniture, framing reinforcement, and more.

The first Rockefeller Christmas tree, put up by Rockefeller workers during the Great Depression in 1931. (Image via Rockefeller Center.)

“The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree is a reminder to reflect, be thankful and to remember to give back to others among the hustle and bustle of the holidays," said Jonathan Reckford, CEO of Habitat for Humanity International in an article the organization published about the tree's repurposing. "That symbol will live on as part of Habitat homeowners’ lives in their new houses.”

A children's book titled "The Carpenter's Gift" was published in 2011, celebrating the tradition of turning the Rockefeller Christmas tree into homes.

According to an article published in USA Today, recipients of houses made with Rockefeller Christmas tree lumber are randomly selected, although the lumber typically makes its way back to the same state from which it was donated. However, once recipients have been selected for a Habitat home, they are made aware of the wood's unique history. Some of the exposed areas of wood are typically branded with the year the tree served as the Rockefeller Christmas centerpiece.

Rockefeller Christmas tree wood can be found in homes in Mississippi, New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, and beyond.

(Image via Habitat for Humanity website.)


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Taija PerryCook is a Seattle-based journalist who previously worked for the PNW news site Crosscut and the Jordan Times in Amman.