Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Curious Story of the Rockefeller Center Tree

The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree is famous. Every year a huge tree is chosen, erected, decked out in splendrous lights, and honored with a huge party the first weekend in December. Christmas in New York has featured a tree in Rockefeller Center ever since 1931, when workers building the center decided to put up a tree to celebrate the season. That very same year, newlyweds Joseph Varanyak, a recent Hungarian immigrant, and his wife Mary Kemper (pictured), received a 7-foot tall Norway spruce as a gift--their first Christmas tree. When Christmas was over they planted it outside and it continued to grow. It grew so large that Mary Varanyak would often tell her sons that one day her tree would grace Rockefeller Center. However, when she died eight years ago, her dream had still not come true. Then, this fall, as Rockefeller Center tree-scouts were scouring the countryside for this year's perfect tree, they spotted an amazing 72-foot tall Norway spruce. When they approached the owners, they discovered the story of the Varanyak family's Christmas tree. The twin brothers Bill and Bob Varanyak were overjoyed that their mother's wish was finally being fulfilled, and donated the tree in her memory. They feel she has watched over the tree until this moment.

Isn't that a great story? The official tree-lighting ceremony is next Sunday, but I'll have to catch it on TV, because I'll be home for Thanksgiving. But I work near Rockefeller Center, and have enjoyed seeing all the stores put on their holiday finery as the season approaches, and I will go visit the tree soon. In the past few days the tree has been put into place and a humongous star set on top of it, made of Swarovski crystals and weighing something like 550 pounds. Let's hope that thing is securely in place!

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