New York Holidays: Rockefeller Center (Then & Now)

During the Great Depression, workers at Rockefeller Center proudly pooled their money to purchase the original Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree. It was a 20-foot balsam fir, and they adorned it with home-made garlands, standing it at the Rockefeller Center construction site as a symbol of hope and optimism. Two years later, in 1933, Rockefeller Center made the tree an annual tradition, one we all look forward to seeing today. The tree still stands as a symbol of confidence, perhaps one we need more than ever during these times. And it’s with great joy that we will be able to watch skaters, many celebrating special moments, glide across at the Rockefeller Center skating pond, which opened on December 25, 1936. Back then—despite the draw of the Christmas Tree and the year-round shops—enticing guests to walk down the stairs and into the sunken plaza proved difficult. A temporary “skating pond” was eventually proposed and it was an instant hit, developing into a permanent addition delighting city residents and tourists alike.

The first Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, purchased by workers at Rockefeller Center during the Great Depression.
The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree in 2018.
Ice skating c.a. 1940.
A modern day look at the Rockefeller Center Rink.
Opening day on the Rockefeller Center skating pond, c.a. 1950.