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The Rockefeller Christmas tree always looks like a hot mess when it arrives, and photos from years past prove it

The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree 2020

  • The 2020 Rockefeller Christmas tree didn't look so great upon arrival to New York City, and some think it's a metaphor for the disastrous year we've had. 
  • But we looked at photos of Rockefeller Christmas trees from past years, and they typically look scraggly with bald patches when they arrive at the center. 
  • Rockefeller Christmas trees come from upsate New York and surrounding states.
  • Workers wrap them tightly for the long trip, and the branches need time to adjust to their natural position once they arrive in the city, EB Kelly, a managing director at the real estate firm that owns Rockefeller Center, told The New York Times.
  • By the time of the lighting, the tree always looks beautiful and full, and Kelly said this year will be no different.
  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

As much as we want it to be, this year's scraggly Rockefeller Christmas tree is not a metaphor for 2020.

The tree from Oneonta, New York, didn't look so great when it arrived in NYC on November 14. Some Twitter users joked that the tree is fitting for this disastrous year we've had, while others compared it to the sparse sapling in "A Charlie Brown Christmas." 

But the tree may not be as metaphoric as we want to believe.

EB Kelly, a managing director at the real estate firm that owns Rockefeller Center, told The New York Times that the 2020 tree's scraggly look is typical for a Rockefeller Christmas tree after being wrapped up tightly for a long drive to New York City. 

But the tree will be beautiful, she said, once the branches settle down into their natural position. 

Photos of Rockefeller Christmas trees over the years show that they typically arrive with bedhead after being wrapped up for the journey, but by the time of the lighting, they always look beautifully lush.

For example, 2019's Rockefeller Christmas tree didn't look so great upon arrival either. It came from Florida, New York, per CNN Travel, and had been wrapped in rope for a 1.5-hour drive.

But once it was time to light the tree, its branches returned to their natural state, and the tree looked normal.

The 2019 Rockefeller Christmas tree on the day it arrived in NYC and the night it was lit.
Taylor Hill/Getty Images; John Lamparski/Getty Images

Even a decade ago in 2010, the Rockefeller tree had a rough start to the season. It came from Mahopac, New York, The New York Times previously reported. Mahopac is about 1.5 hours from NYC by car.

A crane lifts the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree into the place on November 12, 2010 in New York.
KIMIHIRO HOSHINO/AFP via Getty Images

In 2006, the tree arrived looking halfway bald. It came from Ridgefield, Connecticut, per Gothamist, a 1.5-hour drive from New York City.

Workmen hoist the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree into place in Rockefeller Plaza in 2006.
David Handschuh/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images

Six years later in 2012, the tree looked halfway bald again.

The tree came from Flanders, New Jersey, after surviving Hurricane Sandy, The Huffington Post reported. Flanders is about an hour from New York City by car. 

The 2012 Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree is put in position by a crane and crew of workers outside Rockefeller Center in New York November 14, 2012.
REUTERS/Andrew Burton

So this year's tree is probably going to be less like 2020 than we thought. But we'll find out for sure on December 2, when the 2020 Rockefeller Christmas Tree lighting takes place.

This year, the public cannot attend the lighting due to the ongoing pandemic, but it will be streamed on NBC.

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