Rockefeller Center Christmas tree arrives in New York City: 12 things you never knew about the famous fir

The most wonderful time of the year is nearly here, which means starry-eyed visitors and jaded New Yorkers alike will soon be flocking to the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.

This year’s fir -- a massive Norway spruce from the village of Florida, N.Y. -- is 77 feet tall, weighs roughly 12 tons, or about 24,000 pounds, and will soon sparkle with more than 50,000 lights. The evergreen was officially lifted into place on Saturday, in the heart of the Big Apple. Its farmer, Carol Schultz, said she always knew her spruce was special.

Schultz bought the sapling in 1959, planted it in her front yard after the Christmas season and watched it grow and grow and grow, according to The Associated Press.

Carol Schultz hugged the trunk of a 77-foot tall Norway Spruce that she donated to serve as this year's Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.

Carol Schultz hugged the trunk of a 77-foot tall Norway Spruce that she donated to serve as this year's Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. (Diane Bondareff/AP Images for Tishman Speyer)

"I always said, 'You're going to be up in Rockefeller Center some day and you're going to be a beautiful tree when you get older,'" Schultz told Today of the big honor. "When I see the tree lit up, I'm probably going to cry."

In 2010, Schultz and her companion, Richard O'Donnell, entered their tree into Rockefeller Center's selection pool. Earlier this year, they learned their fir made the (literal) cut.

The tree was chopped down on Thursday, lifted by a crane onto a flatbed, and driven into Manhattan in high style.

Carol Schultz, center, donor of this year's Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, poses with her family in front of her 77-foot tall Norway Spruce she donated to serve as the 2019 Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.

Carol Schultz, center, donor of this year's Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, poses with her family in front of her 77-foot tall Norway Spruce she donated to serve as the 2019 Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. (Diane Bondareff/AP Images for Tishman Speyer)

After being lit during the all-important 87th Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony on Dec. 4, it will welcome the masses until Jan. 17 of the New Year.

But ahead of the festivities, grab a cup of cocoa and brush up on these 12 little-known facts about America's most famous Christmas tree.

1. Recruitment takes a year

"It's an all-year process, where I'm constantly looking for trees to put on the list. I go around and visit prospective trees,” Rockefeller Center's head gardener Erik Pauze told AM New York in 2018. "If you get a tree that's halfway decent looking, and you go visit it and it looks good in the picture but you get up close, and it's not, then you go around that area, because maybe the climate and the weather isn't too bad, so there may be another good one there."

Though finding the right fir is serious business, Pauze trusts his instincts

“Sometimes I visit a tree several times over the year, [to] watch it grow or fill out. But when I see the perfect one, I just know it,” he told NYC Go.

The 2019 Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, a 77-foot tall, 12-ton Norway Spruce, was prepared for a platform at Rockefeller Center. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

The 2019 Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, a 77-foot tall, 12-ton Norway Spruce, was prepared for a platform at Rockefeller Center. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

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2. It’s usually a Norway spruce

Aspiring trees have to fill quite a few requirements in order to have a shot at being selected.

The chosen tree is often a “nicely shaped” Norway spruce, usually at least 75 feet tall and dense enough that you “shouldn’t be able to see the sky through it,” Pauze told NYC Go, explaining that certain trees have more of a presence in Rockefeller Center.

Though it’s typically sourced from the tri-state area, the tree has occasionally traveled great distances to the heart of Manhattan. The 1966 tree was from Canada, and the 1998 tree came from Ohio, AM NY reported.

3. The tree is donated

The 2016 Christmas tree stood lit up after the lighting ceremony for the 84th annual Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting. 

The 2016 Christmas tree stood lit up after the lighting ceremony for the 84th annual Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting.  (Reuters)

Surprisingly, Rockefeller Center doesn’t pay a dime for the timber -- it is traditionally donated by its owners.

Nevertheless, Tishman Speyer Properties -- Rock Center’s owner -- pays to transport it to New York City, according to AM NY.

The tree is often brought in during the night, when the streets are less crowded.

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4. The tradition began with a sentimental start

According to Mental Floss, the Rockefeller Tree tradition began with a sentimental start in 1931, in the thick of the Great Depression.

“The Depression-era workmen building [Rockefeller Center] were so grateful to have jobs that they decorated a spruce tree with strings of cranberries, paper garlands and a few tin cans,” the outlet said of the tree’s origin story. “On Dec. 24, they lined up beneath the tree and received a small Christmas miracle: paychecks.”

Two years later, in 1933, the first official Rockefeller Center holiday tree welcomed the masses.

The 80th Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree was raised in New York's Rockefeller Center in 2012. The 80-foot Norway spruce, donated by Joseph Balku of Flanders, N.J., was strung with 30,000 multi-colored LEDs on 5 miles of wire, and topped with a Swarovski Crystal Star.

The 80th Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree was raised in New York's Rockefeller Center in 2012. The 80-foot Norway spruce, donated by Joseph Balku of Flanders, N.J., was strung with 30,000 multi-colored LEDs on 5 miles of wire, and topped with a Swarovski Crystal Star. (AP)

5. The tree was once silver

In 1949, the annual Rockefeller Tree was not a traditional green hue but was instead painted silver to mimic snow, per AM NY.

6. The 900-pound topper is made of Swarovski crystals

A glitzy 900-pound star that sparkles with 3 million Swarovski crystals made its debut at the top of the famous fir in 2018, the New York Post reported.

The giant bauble, designed by architect Daniel Libeskind, features 70 glass spikes and a brightness of 106,000 lumens, according to Quartzy.

Libeskind is known for his work with museums across the globe, as well as his vision for the redesign of the World Trade Center.

The 85th annual Rockefeller Center Christmas tree lighting ceremony was on Nov. 29, 2017.

The 85th annual Rockefeller Center Christmas tree lighting ceremony was on Nov. 29, 2017. (AP)

7. It has to be camera-ready

No “bad side” here. Pauze says the tree has “got to look good” not only to dazzle visitors, but on television, as well.

"It's got to look good from all sides, because it's viewed from all the angles, like the Fifth Avenue side or when people come around the corner from Radio City Music Hall or when people come out of the subway,” he said. “It's constantly on TV so it's got to look good."

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8. Visitors come out in droves

Approximately 800,000 people are expected to visit the tree every day through the holiday season this year, according to Today.

9. Of course, daredevils have tried to climb it

Though various adventurers have (unsuccessfully) attempted to summit the gigantic tree over the years, one 27-year-old man got all the way to the top in 1979.

Upon arriving at the top, he screamed “Free the 50” in reference to the Americans who were imprisoned at the U.S. embassy in Iran at the time, according to Mental Floss.

Law enforcement officials tactfully talked him down, explaining that his stunt would not help release the captives.

The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree in 2015.

The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree in 2015. (AP)

10. The evergreen has gotten greener

Since 2007, the tree has gotten greener, with solar panels powering many of the fir’s lights, Mental Floss reported.

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11.  Those who donate the tree become VIP

"[The families] get invited down [to Rockefeller Center] after we cut the tree down, and they come down when we put it up, and they get to hang around that day," Pauze told AM NY of the chosen ones who win status as lighting ceremony VIPs. "When we light it up, they hang around and get to enjoy the festivities."

12. It’s truly a 'giving tree'

After its run at the plaza, the tree is milled into lumber and donated to help build homes through Habitat for Humanity.

"We take it down, get it out of the plaza, and get it to a place in New Jersey," Pauze told AM NY. "We mill it, then get it down to what's usable and kiln-dry it. You're not going to be able to build an entire house, but you'll get a couple of window or door frames. It's a pretty cool piece to have in your house."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.