Rockefeller Center Christmas tree’s journey into a Habitat home

The magic of the most famous Christmas tree in the world lives long past the holiday season.

Each year since 2007, lumber milled from the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree has been used to help a family build their Habitat for Humanity house. Tishman Speyer, the owner and operator of the Rockefeller Center, generously donates that lumber to Habitat. Company staff members then build alongside a family, turning a Christmas tradition celebrated by millions into a place for smaller, but no less joyous, celebrations.

Lumber from Rockefeller Center Christmas trees has been used to help build Habitat homes from New York to Mississippi.

“Every year, Tishman Speyer generously donates one of the largest and most widely-recognized Christmas trees to Habitat,” says Jonathan Reckford, CEO of Habitat for Humanity International. “The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree is a reminder to reflect, be thankful and to remember to give back to others among the hustle and bustle of the holidays. That symbol will live on as part of Habitat homeowners’ lives in their new houses.”

Tracey and her four daughters have lumber from the 2007 tree in their Habitat home in Mississippi. Each year, on Christmas Eve, the family gathers on their front porch with hot cocoa to exchange their first gifts. It’s a scenario of warmth and stability that would have been hard for the Hurricane Katrina-affected family to anticipate in those first jumbled months after the storm.

Years later, the 2013 tree became part of Dale’s home in Connecticut. “We think about it all the time,” he says. “When you help build from the bottom up, you remember where everything is.”

Dale calls Habitat “a family that gets bigger and bigger.”

Rockefeller Center Christmas tree and Habitat for Humanity

  • Once the trees come down after the holidays, the trunks are milled into two-by-four and two-by six beams that Tishman Speyer, the owner and operator of Rockefeller Center, donates to Habitat.
  • The wood of a Norway Spruce is more flexible and durable than lumber for load-bearing walls and therefore is ideal for blocking — the filling, spacing, joining or reinforcing of frames — as well as for flooring, furniture and cabinetry.
  • The children’s book The Carpenter’s Gift was inspired by the generous annual donation of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree to Habitat and celebrates the importance of helping our neighbors.
  • Tishman Speyer has donated the lumber from the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree every year since 2007:
  • Lumber from the 2007 tree from Shelton, Connecticut, was used in Habitat homes in Pascagoula, Mississippi.
  • Lumber from the 2008 tree from Trenton, New Jersey, was used in Habitat homes in New York City.
  • Lumber from the 2009 tree from Easton, Connecticut, was used in Habitat homes in Stamford, Connecticut.
  • Lumber from the 2010 tree from Mahopac, New York, was used in Habitat homes in Newburgh, New York.
  • Lumber from the 2011 tree from Mifflinville, Pennsylvania, was used in Habitat homes in Philadelphia.
  • Lumber from the 2012 tree from Flanders, New Jersey, was used in Habitat homes in New York City and Madison, New Jersey.
  • Lumber from the 2013 tree from Shelton, Connecticut, was used in Habitat homes in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
  • Lumber from the 2014 tree from Hemlock Township, Pennsylvania, was used in Habitat homes in Philadelphia.
  • Lumber from the 2015 tree from Gardiner, New York, was used in Habitat homes in Newburgh, New York.
  • Lumber from the 2016 tree from Oneonta, New York, was used in Habitat homes in Newburgh, New York.
  • Lumber from the 2017 tree from State College, Pennsylvania, was used in Habitat homes in Newburgh, New York.
  • Lumber from the 2018 tree from Walkill, New York, will be was used in Habitat homes in a community to be announced in 2019.

Additional Rockefeller Center Christmas tree facts

  • In 1931, men working on the excavation for Rockefeller Center put up the site's first Christmas tree. The workers decorated a 20-foot balsam fir using garlands made by their families and the tinfoil ends of blasting caps. The site of their celebration was situated on the same area of the plaza where the tree is now raised each year.
  • In 1933, Rockefeller Center decided a tree would be the perfect way to celebrate the Center, and an annual tradition was born.
  • The 1986 Rockefeller Center Christmas tree was planted at the same time that work on the Center began in 1931.
  • Rockefeller Center works with the families who donate their trees to replace them and replenish the landscape.
  • An estimated 500,000 people visit Rockefeller Center to see the Christmas tree each day during the holiday season.