The first tree debuted at Rockefeller Center on Christmas Eve, 1931. The tree, erected by construction workers eager to receive a day’s pay in the depths of the Depression, stood only 20 ft. tall — a quarter of the size of this year’s holiday specimen.
Here's a look at some of the 79-year-old tradition’s most historic moments:
2. The $1.5 Million Star
In 1931, tin cans and scrap paper were used to adorn the tree — appropriate decorations for Depression-era America. Then came garlands and glass. Colored lights and ornaments in the shape of dogs and sailboats made their appearance in 1934. A 4-ft. plastic star, a white spray-painted tree and 10-ft.-long aluminum icicles were staples of the 1950s. The 1990s took it up a notch with a gold-leaf star. But that was nothing compared to the 550-lb. Swarovski star unveiled in 2009. Created specifically for the tree and standing 10 ft. tall, the estimated $1.5 million star is made of 25,000 crystals and 1 million facets.
3. The Tree Goes Black
One of the most spectacular features of the tree every year is its nighttime glow. But in 1944, the Christmas trees (yes, three trees, in fact) remained unlit. The backstory is that two years earlier, Rockefeller Center unveiled three small trees dedicated to the U.S. effort in World War II — each one either red, white or blue. The patriotic trees were replanted over the next couple of years, but in 1944, in line with wartime blackout regulations, the trees stayed dark. When the war ended in 1945, the organizers made up for lost time and used six ultraviolet-light projectors to make all 700 fluorescent globes on that year’s tree appear to glow in the dark.
4. A Television Debut
In 1951, the tree made its first appearance on television when the lighting ceremony was shown on The Kate Smith Show. Two years later, it became a special each year on The Howdy Doody Show until 1955. With the tree’s appearance on television, the 1950s also saw the emergence of more and more elaborate decorations. In 1953, 6,000 icicle lights and giant floodlights illuminated the tree, and just a year later, white angel trumpeters were added.
5. The Search for the Perfect Tree
On several occasions, the tree has been donated to Rockefeller Center. In 1956, for example, a New Hampshire man gave a white spruce to New York’s governor, who handed it over to the tree’s organizers. Ten years later, the nation of Canada decided to give over one of their trees. But most of the time, it has been purposefully sought out. For a long while, David Murbach, who was the center’s garden manager before he passed away late last year, used to rent a car and take scenic drives through New England in order to find the finest specimen. More recently, though, Rockefeller Center’s crew has taken a helicopter into New England to locate the perfect tree from aloft.
6. Tree Climbing
Most Rockefeller Center trees endure a largely uneventful Christmas season. Admired from afar, they sometimes serve as the backdrop for tourists’ photos, but that’s pretty much it. However, in 1979 the Rockefeller tree became part of a political protest when a 27-year-old man scaled it and began shouting “Free the 50!” — referring to the Americans who were then being held hostage (see photo) at the U.S. embassy in Iran. He came down when police officers pointed out that climbing a Christmas tree would not help free the hostages. Another man tried to climb the tree in 1980, but he offered no motive for his actions. Apparently he just thought it would be fun.
7. Taking the Trees into the City
Because they’re so big — and New York City so traffic-jammed — the Rockefeller Center Christmas trees travel into the city at night, when fewer cars are on the road. Each tree’s uppermost branches are decorated before it is raised into a standing position. And the tree doesn’t require watering: because it’s outside, the behemoth doesn’t dry out the way that smaller indoor Christmas trees do.
8. The Tallest Tree
These days, the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree usually stands no less than 65 ft. tall (this year it’s 74 ft. tall). The 1999 display boasted the tallest tree, a Norway spruce that stood over 100 ft. tall. Because the tree must maneuver through narrow city streets, it most likely won’t ever be much larger than that. The Norway spruce has been New York City’s tree of choice since 1982.
9. Going Greener
You wouldn’t think that a tree could go more green than it already is. But with environmental concerns gaining traction in the 1960s and 1970s, Rockefeller Center began recycling its tree after Christmas. In 1971, it turned the tree into 30 three-bushel bags of mulch for nature trails in upper Manhattan. In 2005, Habitat for Humanity used wood from that year’s tree to make door frames for its homes. By 2007, the tree’s organizers had switched to all energy-saving LED lights, some 30,000 of them. The new bulbs used 1,200 kilowatt hours less electricity per day — enough to power a 2,000 sq.-ft. home for an entire month.
10. The Newest One
The 2010 Rockefeller Center Christmas tree stands 74 ft. tall and weighs 12 tons. Before this holiday season, it lived in Mahopac, N.Y. — in the side yard of New York City firefighter Peter Acton, who said he was sorry to see his beloved evergreen go.
I recently developed a new recipe for a sculptural material I call “paper mache clay.” This material is so easy to use and so easy to make that I now use it exclusively for all my paper mache sculptures.
It might be a bit more accurate to call this material “home-made air-dried cellulose-reinforced polymer clay,” but that’s way too hard to say (or type!), so for now, let’s just call it paper mache clay.
The first video below shows how to make the paper mache clay, and the second video answers some common questions that I’ve received from readers since I first developed this recipe. Below the videos you’ll find the recipe written out, and a few comments about how it’s used. (This recipe is the basis for my book “Make Animal Sculptures with Paper Mache Clay.”)
I usually make mine fairly thin, so it can be spread over an armature like frosting – but you can also vary the consistency, and make it thicker, like this, when you want more control over the modeling process. A very thin layer, about 1/8 to 1/4 inch is extremely strong, and it replaces the many layers of traditional paper strips and paste.
The clay dries extremely hard when applied in a very thin layer (1/8 to 1/4″ thick) and the clay dries much faster than traditional paper mache pulp. (And it only takes about 5 minutes to make).
Paper Mache Clay on Snow Leopard Sculpture
As you can see above, the clay can be modeled into fairly fine details. Using the clay for modeling feels much more intuitive than creating sculptures with paper strips and paste, and once the clay is dry it is a pleasure to paint.
The ingredients are inexpensive, and can be found at your local grocery store and hardware store. You will need:
Cheap toilet paper (measure the wet paper pulp, and use 1.24 cups – some rolls contain more paper than needed)
1 cup Joint compound from the hardware store (get “regular,” not “fast set” or “light”.)
3/4 cup Elmer’s Glue-all
1/2 cup White Flour
2 tablespoons Linseed Oil
See the video below for details on making your clay. And if you try this recipe, please let us all know what you think of it–and also please share a photo of your finished work. We’d love to see how it comes out. (Can’t see the video? See the instructions printed below).
[Edit 2/12/2011 - At least one manufacturer (Dap brand) of joint compound has changed their formula, and this brand no longer works for paper mache clay. If you find that your clay seems "rubbery" instead of smooth and creamy, you may need to use a different brand of joint compound. Any other brand will work. ]
Making Your Paper Mache Clay
1 roll of toilet paper
3/4 cup of white glue (Elmer’s glue-All)
1 cup of joint compound
1/2 cup white flour
2 tablespoons linseed oil
You’ll also need a large bowl, (use one with high sides so you don’t splatter clay on your cupboards), an electric mixer, a measuring cup and a tablespoon measure. To keep t he finished clay from drying out, you’ll need an air-tight container. The recipe makes approximately 1 quart of paper mache clay.
Note about Toilet Paper:
Unfortunately, the people who make toilet paper don’t expect us to turn their product into great works of art, so they see no reason to include the kind of information that would make things a lot easier for us.
I use a brand called “Angel Soft,” in the “regular” 2-ply rolls. I buy it at my local Wal-Mart. Each roll contains approximately 1 1/4 cup of paper, which I measured by wetting the paper, squeezing out the water, and then firmly squishing it into a measuring cup.
Since brands differ so much, the first time you make this recipe you should take a few minutes to find out how much paper is in the first roll. Then adjust the recipe if your brand don’t contain about 1 1/4 cup of paper. Fortunately, this is not a chemistry experiment or rocket science–if your mixture contains a little more paper than mine, or a little less, your sculptures will still be stunning.
Step 1. Fill a high-sided bowl with warm water. Remove the toilet paper from the roll and throw it into the water. Push down on the paper to make sure all of it gets wet.
Step 2. Then pick up the paper and squeeze out as much water as you can. Pour the water out of the bowl and put your paper mass back in.
Step 3. You will want to break the paper into chunks about 1″ across. This will allow your mixer to move around the pieces and break them apart.
Step 4. Add all the ingredients to the bowl and mix, using an electric mixer. The mixer will pull the fibers of the toilet paper apart and turn it into pulp. Continue to mix for at least 3 minutes to make sure all the paper has been mixed in with the other ingredients. If you still see some lumps, use a fork or your fingers (with the mixer turned off!) to break them apart, and then mix some more.
Your paper mache clay is now ready to use. It will look a bit like cookie dough—but don’t eat it!
If you don’t plan to use your clay right away, place it in an airtight container to keep it from drying out. The clay should stay usable for 5 days or more, if you keep it covered. The recipe makes about 1 quart.
Carnival in Cologne is almost as old as the history of the city itself. But the organized carnival celebrated today only dates back 178 years.
The Greeks and Romans celebrated cheerful spring festivals in honor of Dionysos and Saturn with wine, women and song. The ancient Germans celebrated the winter solstice as a homage to the Gods and expulsion of the evil winter demons. Later the Christians adopted the heathen customs. The period of fasting (Lent) prior to Easter was heralded in by "Fastnacht" or "Karnival"...carne vale = Farewell to meat!
In the Middle Ages, the celebration of Carnival, the masquerade, often took on drastic forms, very much to the displeasure of the city council and the church. Bans and ordinances did little to help, the celebration was wild and spirited.
The boisterous street carnival was extended in the 18th century to include the so called "Redouten", elegant masked and fancy dress balls in Venetian style, which were initially the preserve of the aristocracy and the wealthy patricians. In 1736, the first Redoute was held in Cologne in a noble house on the Neumarkt.
Almost 50 years later, Cologne was captured by the French revolutionary troops. But the new rulers allowed the locals "de fair son tour", to hold their carnival parades. The Prussians, who took control a short time later, were stricter, which, however, did not prevent the natives of Cologne from cultivating their Carnival tradition. Carnival was romanticized and became bourgeois. It became organized! With the "Carnival Hero", with today's Prince Carnival, a new idea was also introduced.
In 1823 the "Festordnende Komitee" was founded. On February 10th of that year, Cologne celebrated the first Rose Monday Parade with the moto "Inthronization of theCarnival Hero". Also involved were the "Rote Funken" the former city militia, who had just established themselves as a carnival society, the carnival fool of the "HilligeKnaachte un Magde", Jan von Werth and Cologne's "Peasant" and "Virgin" as a reminder of the former free imperial city of Cologne. At that time, like today, a man wore the costume of the Virgin. In 1860, the first "Ghost Parade" was held on the evening of Carnival Saturday. Even after the turn of the century, the "founding period" of the Carnival fans continued. In 1902, the "Ehrengarde" was formed as the accompanying group of the Peasant and Virgin. In 1906, Prince Carnival was given his "Prinzengarde". Other societies established themselves. Willi Ostermann, with his songs and musings, Grete Fluss extended the fame of Cologne's Carnival beyond the city's boundaries.
The "Sitzungen" (shows) with their humorous orators and singers bridged the gap between the opening of the "Carnival Session" On "11.11" to its climax on Rose Monday. That is still the same today. Now it is bands like the "Black Fooss","Hohner" and "Paveir" and humorists like "Rumpelstizchen" or "Webfachmann" who are the trade marks of Cologne's "Fifth Season". The world famous "Strippefottchen-Tant" of the Rote Funken, a parody on the soldiers' strict life.
There are approximately 160 carnival societies, local history societies and district groups in Cologne which celebrate their home town festival in about 5oo parties, balls and parades. The highlight is always the Rose Monday Parade.
The Sapporo Snow Festival is a famous festival held annually in Sapporo, Japan, over 7 days in February. Currently, Odori Park, Susukino, and Tsudome are the main sites of the festival. The 2011 Yuki-matsuri dates are February 7th to the 13th.
The festival is one of Japan's largest and most distinctive winter events. In 2007, about 2 million people visited Sapporo to see the hundreds of snow statues and ice sculptures at the Odori Park and Suskino sites, in central Sapporo, and the Satoland site. The festival is thought to be an opportunity for promoting international relations. The International Snow Sculpture Contest has been held at the Odori Park sit since 1974, and teams from various regions of the world participate.
The subject of the statues varies and often features as event, famous building or person from the previous yer. For example, in 2004, there were statues of Hideki Matsui, the famous baseball player who at that time played for the New York Yankees. A number of stages made out of snow are also constructed and made out of snow are also constructed and some events including musical performance are held. At the Satoland site, visitors can enjoy long snow and ice slides as well as a huge maze made of snow. Visitors can also enjoy a variety of regional foods from all over Hokkaido at the Odori Park and Satoland sites, such as fresh seafood, potatoes and corn, and fresh dairy products.
Every year the number of statues displayed is around 400. In 2007, there were 307 statues created in the Odori Park site, 32 in the Satoland site and 100 i the Susino site. The best place to view the creations is from the TV tower at Odori Park. Most of the statues are illuminated in the evening. The Sapporo Snow Festival Museum is located in the Hitsujigaoka observation hill in Toyhira-ku, and displays historical materials and media of the festival.
The Snow Festival began in 1950, when 6 local high school students built 6 snow statues in Odori Par. In 1955, the Japan Self-Defense Forces form the nearby Makomani base joined in and built the first massive snow sculptures, for which the Snow Festival has now become famous for. Several snow festivals existed in Sapporo prior to the Sapporo Snow Festival, however, all of these were suspended during World War II.
During the Energy crisis of 1974, snow statues were built using drums. This was due to the shortage of gasoline which caused many of the trucks that were used to carry snow to the site, were unavailable, due to the shortage and rationiong of fuel. In that same year, the International Snow Statue Competition started and since that year many snow statues built by teams from other countries have been featured; especially from some of the sister cities of Sapporo, such as Munich Germany.
In years when the accumulated snowfall is low, the Self-Defense Force, for whom participation is considered a training exercise, brings in snow from outside Sapporo. The Makomanai base, one of three main sites from 1965, hosted the largest sculptures, with a emphasis on providing play space fro children. Use of the Makomanai site was suspended in 2005 and moved to the Sapporo Satoland site located in Higashi-ku in 2006. In 2009, the Satoland site was moved to the Tsudome (Sapporo Community Dome) site. The Tsudome, located close to the Sapporo Satoland, is a dome for multiple sport events.
Nakajima Park was established as one of the festival sites in 1990 however, it was removed as a site in 1992. The thrid site, known as the Suskino Ice Festival, is situated in the night life district of Susukino and includes predominantly ice carvings. The site was approved as one of the festival sites in 1983. Every year, the IcSuskino Queen ofIce, a beauty contest, is held at this site.