The First Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Was Covered In Garbage
There are few Christmas events more heavily anticipated than the tree-lighting ceremony in Rockefeller Center in New York City. The massive (and massively expensive) tree is always adorned with beautiful lights and glamour, serving as a shining beacon of prosperity and good old American dick-swinging. But the first Rockefeller tree had a much more depressing message to send: "We're broke."
While the trees today are gigantic 80-90-foot specimens cultivated from around the country, the first Rockefeller tree was a paltry 20 feet -- and it wasn't even Rockefeller's to begin with. In 1931, the country was suffering under the Great Depression, a time when not having to catch your food automatically made you a 1 percenter. But not everyone was suffering. John D. Rockefeller Jr. was making good time erecting his wildly expensive Rockefeller Center. Not that anyone was complaining; if he'd spent that money on cocaine and flapper girls, a lot of construction workers' kids would have had bricks for Christmas presents.
So while they were forced to work on Christmas Eve, the builders of Rockefeller Center were acutely aware of how fortunate they were to be earning enough money to last the winter. And so, while waiting in line in the cold for their paycheck, the workers decided to kill time and celebrate their good fortune by erecting a Charlie Brown tree.
The workers didn't have Christmas ornaments in their pockets like we all do nowadays, but they made do with what they could find around the site: tin cans, string, cranberries they had for some reason, and garlands made out of paper. Rockefeller Center officially opened two years later, and decided to adopt the Christmas tree as a new tradition -- only bigger and gaudier, because rich people.
Overworked Police Came Up With "Black Friday"
Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year (it's not, though), follows Thanksgiving and involves millions of people who haven't heard of the internet mobbing stores for sales and bargains, occasionally trampling each other to death for a cheap Millennium Falcon Lego set. Most people will tell you that the term refers to stores finally turning a much-needed profit after the typical autumn sales slump, thereby moving from red to black on their balance sheets in one day. But the truth is much, much darker.
The term "Black Friday" wasn't some clever marketing pun fabricated by stores, but a dire warning from police signaling the most crime-ridden day of the year. It was first used by the Philadelphia Police Department in the '50s, when they saw the day after Thanksgiving as a hellish marathon to prevent the city from descending into a Thunderdome of bloodsoaked consumerism and holiday cheer. Back then, the city had to combine Black Friday with their annual Army-Navy game, one of the biggest college football games in the country. It was so hectic that cops were forbidden from taking the day off, and had to work ridiculously long shifts to deal with the crowds, mayhem, and a heightened level of mayhem and aggression -- which, for Philly, is really saying something.