From shade to shelter

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 in Pascagoula, Mississippi; New York City; Stamford, Connecticut; and Newburgh, New York.

Tracey Davison and her four daughters have lumber from the 2007 tree in their Habitat home in Mississippi. Each year, on Christmas Eve, the Davisons gather 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 Shaw’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.”

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

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.
  • Once the trees come down after the holidays, the trunks are milled into lumber that Tishman Speyer, the owner and operator of Rockefeller Center, donates to Habitat.
  • 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.