200711xtree.jpgLast week the Origami Tree went up in all its folded glory, and pretty soon all eyes will be on the "most famous tree in the world" when the Rockefeller Center's spruce gets lit up (with LEDs!). amNewYork spoke to David Murbach, the gardens manager at Rockefeller Center, who drives the back roads of the Northeast looking for trees each year prior to doing an aerial survey in the winter months to see which evergreens catch his eye (this year the Norway Spruce is from Connecticut). The first tree to go up there, however, was much more of an impromptu task.

Depression-era workers demolishing the brownstones and buildings that stood in the way of what would become the British Empire Building, part of the future Rockefeller Center, erected a 20-foot Christmas tree in 1931 to break the monotony of their hard labor.

Two years later the first official ceremony took place and the tree was adorned with "only" 700 lights. The first nationally televised tree lighting was in 1951 on the Kate Smith Show on NBC -- the network has a detailed history on the tree, here. They also provide some info on how the tree is green in more than one way: "In 1971, the tradition of recycling the tree began. Since 1974, the mulch has been donated to the Boy Scouts of America and used at their camps as ground cover to combat soil erosion and to create paths. Each year's tree provides almost 3 tons of mulch." And did you know the largest part of the stump every year is given to the U.S. Equestrian Team to use for an obstacle jump?

This year's Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony is scheduled for November 28th from 7 to 9pm. It will stay lit up through January 6th.

Photo of the 1956 tree via NBC.