The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree's 88 years of history

NEW YORK -- Each year, thousands of spectators pack into New York City's Rockefeller Center for one of the grandest displays of the holiday season - the lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.

In 2019, the 77-foot-tall tree was topped with a huge Swarovski crystal star, and Idina Menzel, Lea Michele and Ne-Yo were among the celebrity performers.

Yet originally, gathering around the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree wasn't such a grand affair. A famous photo from 1931 shows construction workers gathering around a decorated spruce, the plaza's first festive tree.

At the first official light two years later, the tree was decorated with only 700 lights, and at the time, Rockefeller Center was only eight months old, according to AccuWeather.

The ceremony got an upgrade in 1936 with an ice-skating pageant at its brand-new rink.

During World War II, there were three trees at Rockefeller Center - one in red, one in white, and one in blue to show support for the troops.

The holiday lighting was first broadcast in 1951 and has aired on TV ever since.

The largest tree in Rockefeller's history was 1999's 100-foot-tall tree from Connecticut.

The tree has made history as recently as 2017: For the first time ever, it was lit with energy-efficient LED lights powered by hundreds of solar panels on top of 30 Rockefeller.
Copyright © 2020 KTRK-TV. All Rights Reserved.