Back in the 1990s, I was in New York City on a job. It was close to Christmas, and I made my way to Rockefeller Center to check out the famed Christmas Tree. Since it was something that I had only seen on television, I wanted to see it for myself.
For some reason, I've been thinking about what I learned that day. Talking with some folks in charge, I found out that the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree is usually a Norway Spruce anywhere from 65 to 110 feet tall. The large tree is placed annually in the famed Rockefeller Center in Manhattan in the heart of New York City in late November, right after Thanksgiving or early December. And believe it or not, many Rockefeller Center Christmas Trees are given to Rockefeller Center by many donors.
For many years, the story goes that the late David Murbach, who was the manager of the Gardens Division of the Center, scouted the Northeast United States in a helicopter for the right tree. Fact is, Mr. Murbach would search the Northeast forests of Connecticut, Vermont, Ohio, upper state New York, New Jersey, and even into Ottawa, Canada looking for the right tree. Today, the Rockefeller Center's Head Gardner does the search.
It's said that once a tree is found, a crane is brought in to support the tree while it is being cut. Once free, it is moved by trailer transport to New York City. Besides beauty and shape, the only limiting factor to what tree is chosen by width because of the New York City streets heading to Rockefeller Center limit the height of the tree to 110 feet.
Once at the Rockefeller Center, the tree is supported by four guide wires attached at its midpoint and by a steel spike at its base. Scaffolding is put up all around the tree to allow workers access to the tree so that they can put up over 30,000 lights attached to 5 miles of wiring.
From 1942 to 1944, the tree was left unlit during World War II because of the need to blackout cities to avoid attacks and bombings. In 1967, the tree was an opportunity for Canada and the U.S. to demonstrate goodwill. It was Canada’s 100th birthday and, in honor of the milestone, the Canadians donated a tree. In 1971, Rockefeller Center bowed to the environmental movement and agreed to recycle the tree. Yes, the crazies have been around for a long time.
The tallest Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center was a 100 feet spruce that was put up on Veterans Day, November 11, 1999. In 2007, the tree was lit with LED lights instead of incandescent bulbs to save energy. NBC covered the story very favorably, attracting criticism given that it was NBC’s parent company, General Electric, who manufactured and sold the bulbs.
In 2008, signifying its commercialization, a 10-foot tall, 550-pound star made with 25,000 Swarovski crystals topped the tree. It is called the "Swarovski Star" and was created by German artist Michael Hammers, who in 2009 additionally designed his own star lighting production. Rumor is that the Swarovski Star cost $1.5 million. A pop singer by the name of Fergie had the honor of helping unveil the tree topper.
Today the decorated Christmas tree remains lit at Rockefeller Center through January 6, the Christian feast of The Epiphany. Nowadays, once it's removed from the premises - it is recycled for a variety of uses.
Unlike these days, with anti-Christians running rampant in government and an Atheist minority telling the rest of the nation that "they" do not want to see any form of Christian tradition, the first Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center was put up for a bunch of workers to celebrate Christmas.
Although the official Christmas tree tradition at Rockefeller Center began in 1933, which was the year that 30 Rockefeller Plaza opened, the unofficial tradition began during the construction of Rockefeller Center during the Great Depression. They showed that even in the midst of the Great Depression, they did not lose faith.
Yes, during the Great Depression, when having a job and putting food on the table was considered a blessing; when families were going hungry and losing homes as never before; a small Christmas tree gave much hope in a time of despair. It took place when workers took it upon themselves to bring in and decorated a small 20 feet fir tree.
The story goes that they used strings of cranberries, garlands made out of old newspapers, and a few tin cans. Some say that the workers used the tin foil ends of blasting caps as well. That was on Christmas Eve, December 24, 1931, and yes, they were inspired because of the season. They simply wanted to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.
We sometimes forget how grateful those men were to be working at all. They had jobs, and they knew they were the lucky ones. Low wages, no money, living was expensive, and times were tougher than the world has seen since. But even then, then in the midst of the worse Economic Depression ever to befall this nation, with more than a quarter of all Americans out of work, in an era of great despair, the workers there put up that tree as a sign of hope and a belief that their faith was important.
We should take a lesson from those men. Though we are today being attacked by anti-Christians in government, in the Mainstream Media, in Hollywood, and yes, even in our schools today, we can still take comfort in knowing that those who attack us are a very tiny fraction. We need to remember that America is still the largest Christian nation in the world. We are a nation where over 75% of us still affirm that we are indeed Christians.
Today, we Americans see our government attacking our rights of freedom of religion and free speech. The government is even attacking our right to arm ourselves in self-defense of our own lives. And yes, many of us see America as divided as never before. Sadly, our division plays into the hands of our enemies. What's sadder than that is how many of America's enemies are now deeply rooted within our own government.
During these times when we have a corrupt and abusive federal government, a time when the law applies to some all depending on one's wealth and political affiliation, a time when more and more jobs are being lost to government over-regulation and over-taxation, American families are having it tough to make ends meet.
Every day food prices, rents, and the costs of merely surviving are through the roof. While this is going on, our government wants more taxes while giving billions of American taxpayer dollars to foreign governments. Private businesses are now seen as an enemy instead of providers of employment, and the divide between the rich and the poor is becoming wider. Add to this despair and we have a nation looking at a bleak future.
Of course, as during the Great Depression, with great despair comes great challenges. One challenge for all of us is how we remain hopeful. For me, I focus on those things in life that matter to me. I focus on the love of my family, the closeness of a few special friends, my faith in God, and my responsibilities.
By holding such things dear to me, I find myself stronger and more hopeful. I find myself more willing to fight and overcome those adversities that seem to pop up these days. And yes, just as others have done before during other tough times, I know that Americans have to stay strong, have hope, and believe with all of our hearts that Christmas will be wonderful -- no matter what happens.