Home for the holidays. It’s a special time of joy and togetherness. And for some families living in Habitat for Humanity homes, the holidays are ingrained in the very heart of their home.
Each year since 2007, lumber milled from the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree has been used to help a family build their Habitat home. Tishman Speyer, the owner and operator of 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.
“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,” says Jonathan Reckford, CEO of Habitat for Humanity International. “That symbol will live on as part of Habitat homeowners’ lives in their new houses.”
Rockefeller Center usually selects a Norway Spruce as its holiday showstopper. Once the trees come down, the trunks are milled into two-by-four and two-by six beams donated by Tishman Speyer. 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. Lumber from Rockefeller Center Christmas trees has been used to help build Habitat homes from New York to Mississippi.
Lakisha and her five children have lumber from the 2017 tree in their Habitat home in New York. Lakisha treasures making breakfast for her family on Christmas morning and finally having the space to spread out, relax, and enjoy the day together. Several pieces of exposed lumber in her pantry and cabinets are branded with a commemorative stamp celebrating the anniversary of Rockefeller Center’s 85th tree lighting. “Every day, it’s a beautiful reminder of how far I’ve come,” Lakisha says. “And that you should never give up on your dreams, no matter what.”
For Habitat for Humanity International employees, a symbol of the longstanding partnership with Tishman Speyer is visible year-round. Several walls featuring exposed lumber from the 2018 Rockefeller Center Christmas tree are scattered throughout Habitat’s national headquarters in Atlanta, GA. The lumber is branded with stamps from multiple years commemorating the annual tree lighting ceremony.
Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Fun Facts:
- In 1931, men working on the excavation for Rockefeller Center put up the site’s first Christmas tree. The workers decorated a 20′ 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.
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