That Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Gave Its Life for You, Okay?

Never forget: This tree, that one year.
Never forget: This tree, that one year.

About that Rockefeller Center Christmas tree -- this year's is a 74-foot Norway spruce from Mahopac, New York, to be lit up this very evening to the delight of 2.5 million holiday gawkers. The tree in Rock Center is one of those things that New Yorkers take for granted, perhaps even begrudge a bit for the tourist traffic and further inconveniences it brings to Midtown. But how does it all work? The New York Times investigated, and turned up some intriguing behind-the-scenes facts.

• After getting trucked to Manhattan from its birthplace, strung with wire, and decorated with lights like so many a tawdry hooker, to be gazed at by the masses, the trees are thrown into a wood chipper and turned to mulch -- back to the gerbil cage or manicured lawn or Boy Scout camp from whence they came.

• The tree that you see is not always the "first choice" tree. Sometimes, as with anything dubbed a "first choice," a better offer shows its face (in this case, staying in the ground and living). Usually, it's little girls who determine this matter.

• Most families donate their trees and and are thrilled to be chosen (they get VIP status at lighting ceremonies, sweet!). But some more Scroogey folks require a small payment, like $2,000. And almost everyone gets free landscaping post tree removal. After all, it's Christmas!

• There is an actual job for the people who find the trees by traversing lawns across New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut, making scouting expeditions by car and helicopter, and "leaving goody baskets at the doors of reluctant homeowners whose trees they have their eyes on." (Goody baskets contain souvenirs and coffee mugs. Hard to pass up.)

• Pretty much everyone, at least everyone interviewed, was sad when their tree was sacrificed to the Rock Center Gods.

"The day they cut it down, it gave me a little feeling like, 'Oh my, I don't know if the tree wants to go,' " said Mrs. Rivnyak, 67.

• Some people who have donated trees have received bomb threats. Okay, that's taking it a little far. Where's the Christmas spirit?

Tune in to see the Rockefeller Center tree get its face paint on tonight starting at 7 p.m.!


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