The 88th Rockefeller Christmas tree spreads holiday hope across the nation


Lindsay Benza '23

The 2018 Rockefeller Christmas tree shone brightly at the heart of Rockefeller Plaza.

The 88th Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, with a surprise guest in tow, arrived in Rockefeller Plaza November 14.  The tree and a wayward owl bring Christmas cheer and hope to New York City and the nation during the COVID-19 pandemic.  At the beginning of December, the tree lights up Rockefeller Center with 50,000 multi-colored lights and a 900-pound Swarovski star at the top.

The installation of the first Rockefeller Christmas tree began a tradition that people around nation anticipate during the Christmas season.  Courtesy of

The 75-foot-tall, 45-foot-wide, 11-ton Norway spruce was cut down in Oneonta, New York.  This year’s tree donation was from Mr. Al Dick of Daddy Al’s General Store.  A team of 20 workers transferred the 80-year-old tree to New York City on a flatbed and then put the tree into place at the heart of Rockefeller Center, according to The New York Times.

Paula White, a member of the Dick family, expressed her disbelief that their tree will now garner the appreciation of millions all over the country.

“I’m still in awe that this was in my backyard a little while ago,” Paula said, according to  “It’s amazing to think that this tree — which people went by every day and never took a second look at it — and now it’s the most beautiful tree in the world, standing and bringing hope to people that go by and see it.”

Three days after the tree was transferred to New York City, one of the workers discovered an owl in the branches of the Norway spruce.  The Ravensbeard Wildlife Center identified the owl, now named Rockefeller, as a sawwhet owl which is one of the smallest owl species in North America.  The Wildlife Center is taking care of Rockefeller by giving him plenty of fluids and food.  After Rockefeller has fully rehabilitated, he will return back into the wild.  Rockefeller went three whole days stuck in the branches of the tree with no food or water.  Many people view him as a sign of hope for the new year amid the difficulties of the coronavirus pandemic, according to The New York Times.

Rockefeller, the owl, is rehabilitating at the Ravensbeard Wildlife Center.  Courtesy of Ms. Lindsay Possumato

This year marks the continuation of Christmas tradition that began 88 years ago.  In December 1931, workers at Rockefeller Center pooled their money together to buy a 20-foot high balsam fir tree, making it the first Rockefeller Christmas tree, according to rockefellercenter.comFrom then on, Rockefeller Center decided to make the Christmas tree lighting ceremony an annual event.

Mr. Robert Cushman, Upper School Math Teacher, looks forward to seeing the Rockefeller Tree each year.

“When it is lit up it is incredibly beautiful,” Mr. Cushman said.  “Seeing it in person in NYC has always been a fantastic experience.”

This year, there will be no public access to the tree lighting ceremony.  Instead, people around the nation can watch the broadcast of “Christmas in Rockefeller Center” on National Broadcasting Company (NBC) December 2.  In 2019, the tree lighting ceremony featured performances from artists such as Mr. Brett Eldredge, Mr. John Legend, and Ms. Gwen Stefani.

“It is a tradition for my wife and I to watch the Lighting Ceremony on NBC every year,” Mr. Cushman said.  “Lots of the music is upbeat and fun, and it is wonderful to see all the people in Rockefeller Center in the Christmas spirit.  It will be different this year without the crowds but I think it will still be a unifying, healing, and joyous ceremony.”

Featured Image by Lindsay Benza ’23