Everything You Need to Know About This Year’s Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

New Yorkers aren’t known to be the most pleasant people around, and even the sight of the gorgeous Rockefeller Christmas tree — seriously, how tall is it anyways? — won’t do much to curtail a city native for mumbling something about tourists if you get in their way while admiring the towering, evergreen conifer.

And although I’ve been late to meetings and events thanks to a combination of MTA unreliability and slow-footed tourists, and even though I’ve seen the Rockefeller Center tree dozens of times, even I have to admit the thing is pretty awe-inspiring.

If you just let that Christmas cheer in, and are maybe under the influence of a little something of your choice, gazing at the lights on this annual masterpiece can make you feel all warm and fuzzy. And it’s been having that effect on people for a very long time, since 1933 to be exact.

Here’s a few things you should know about the 86th tree to go up in New York City that’ll soon be the toast of everyone’s Instagram account.


Where is the Rockefeller Center Tree from this year?


A Norway Spruce has been chosen as the ginormous plant that’ll represent NYC’s yuletide cheer for 2018, but it doesn’t hail from the land of ice and snow. No, it comes from the grounds of State College in Pennsylvania.

How tall is the Rockefeller Christmas tree?


There are some stipulations that the Rockefeller tree must follow: it can’t be shorter than 65 feet in height, or smaller than 35 feet in width, this year’s tree is a whopping 75 feet tall. Now if you think that’s big, then you must’ve forgotten about the one chilling in Rockefeller Center in 1999: it was 100 feet tall!

So, how many lights will the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree have?


If you’ve ever seen the tree, then you know NY goes hard when it comes to making it shine, and 2018 will be no different. The Norway Spruce is going to be fitted with some 50,000 lights, so it’ll be big, bright, and beautiful.

How much does the star on the famed tree weigh?


Swarovski is providing the star for this year’s tree, like they have been since 2004. It weighs a whopping 550 lbs, or, my bench press warm-up. It’s 9.5 in diameter and is loaded with some 25,000 crystals a million facets, and LED lights to make for a truly dazzling experience. If you’re wondering who designed such an amazing piece, you can thank German artist Michael Hammers.

When does the Rockefeller tree get taken down?


The tree will be lit up for the first time this year on Wednesday, November 28th. To kick off the tree lighting ceremony, there’ll be live band performances between 7-9 p.m. EST, at Rockefeller Plaza. If you’re planning on going, make sure you bundle up!

Now if you’re worried about not having enough time to check the tree out in person, or if grouchily wondering how long you’ll have to deal with people snapping selfies in front of the big tree, then either fret not or fret away, because it’ll be up until January 7, 2019.

Don’t forget about the Rockefeller Center skating rink!


You’ve seen it in countless movies and TV shows, and mentioned in a bunch of novels: the Rink at Rockefeller Center. It’s almost as old as the tree lighting ceremony itself: it was officially opened in 1936 and New Yorkers, tourists, and film production companies alike have been enjoying it ever since.

What happens to the Rockefeller tree after it’s taken down?


After the tree’s been uprooted for what’s basically a gigantic, temporal decoration, it’ll be donated to Habitat for Humanity to be used for constructing homes for those in need. This practice was started in 2007 and has been going strong ever since.

Are you planning on checking out the tree this Christmas season? If so, may your photos of the splendid holiday sight be absolutely wonderful. And if you’re worried about the added foot traffic to your commute, I can only suggest you get out of the house a little earlier and suck it up for the Holidays by pretending to enjoy it. Merry Christmas!

This Woman’s Family Did a DNA Test That Sent Them All Into a Nervous Breakdown

With all the Cyber Monday talk in the air, you might have happened upon or been tempted by some on-sale DNA kits or heavily reduced 23andMe’s. After all, who hasn’t at the very least expressed curiosity in knowing where they came from?

Not only is it fascinating, but we’ve all come across an online story or two where unsuspecting individuals’ results threw their whole family histories into question.

It happened to my family years ago when a distant cousin revealed we were actually Jewish, and several of my uncles and even my mom have converted in the years since.

Something not entirely dissimilar happened to Christine (@queenozymandias) when she went home to spend a weekend with her family. She took to Twitter to recount what happened when her Italian uncle received some very unexpected DNA test results.


“My uncle on my Italian side got one of the DNA tests done and it turns out they’re not Italian and everyone in my family is having a mental breakdown,” she begins.

Imagine holding steadily to a belief about your family, spending your entire life thinking that you hail from Italy (justifying your affinity for carbs and marinara sauce) and having everything you know about yourself suddenly deflated when your uncle opens his mouth at dinner.

The family was understandably not prepared for such a revelation, and it sent them all into a massive existential spiral. Christine updates to write that her dad “is yelling at his brother ‘WHY DID YOU DO THIS’,” and I imagine him running around the house acting like Tony Soprano when he’s mad at Chris.

Which, it turns out, is not totally far off from Christine’s description. “Dad is currently yelling in an excessively Italian accent at his brother and my stepmom that his life has been ruined,” she tweeted a few minutes later.

I need this one dinner to be made into a movie.


The family then does what any normal family looking to cope would do, and decides to pull out a map. I was only 5 or 6 when my whole family came to their own life-altering conclusions about our Jewish genealogy, but the one thing I do clearly remember was huddling around our old-school globe.

“Currently looking at a map to try to figure out if we could be from like the Italian part of Switzerland, a thing that my father now is convinced exists,” writes Christine moments later. In all fairness to her father, it does exist, and about 350,000 Swiss people speak Italian as their native tongue.

But the family might have told Christine’s dad to drop it all together, because she writes her “uncle Andy is now yodeling in the kitchen and my dad is yelling at him to shut up” in the following update.

Man, I kind of feel unreasonably bad for Christine’s father, who was basically tricked into a deep mental crisis. I feel like people should have to consent to receiving life-changing revelations, instead of having them sprung upon them at a family dinner.


After Christine’s over-50,000 retweeters begged her for an update, writing that the thread “was not nearly long enough,” and wondering whether it’s “rude to ask for updates,” she finally broke her silence.

“My nana is mad at my uncle and eventually just stopped talking to him and started talking about her family’s history in New Jersey, and this morning told my brother to ‘shut it’ when he brought it up again. I’m getting my dad Swiss chocolate for Christmas, he remains devastated,” Christine concluded.

I’m all for the Swiss chocolate plan, but I think a Swiss-Italian cookbook might be the ultimate move.

People were delighted by Christine’s family meltdown, writing “He’s never going to be able to watch The Godfatheragain, is he” and suggesting she troll her dad by replacing “his Godfather boxset with Swiss Family Robinson.”


Others offered support by saying the same thing had happened to them. Like this one woman, who writes “This happened to my family! I had to explain to them that we still could be Italian it’s just that DNA picks and chooses what elements we have to make us truly unique. We have the NON-Italian DNA (so much for being irreplaceable).”

Sounds kind of suspect, if you ask me.

People whose DNA tests revealed their dads were not their real dads chimed in to let Christine know it could be worse. “I took it, found my dad wasn’t my biological father but found a wonderful family I am related to.  I was conceived in England April 1944, 2 months before D-Day – English mom, American Navy guy. Went from being an only to oldest of 11,” wrote one guy.

“I learned both parents couldn’t be Bio in my senior Genetics course for my BA in Biol Anthro. I had a 3yo daughter & nb son, both blonde/blue eyes, Rh- & Two Brown hair/eye Rh+ parents. After 35 yrs an aunt confirmed mom affair. Dad’s bro did genetic test for me, I just took it,” added another.

Mainly, Twitter just wants to see this family debacle made into a movie — but according to Christine, only one actor would be suitable enough to play her dad.


“My dad is very vain and would only accept like the ghost of Marlon Brando tbh,” she writes in response to someone asking who she’d like to play her dad in the movie. But it doesn’t have to be On the Waterfront Marlon, she claims: “I feel like he would understand that we need to stay closer to reality and would accept post-GodfatherBrando.”

Now this is a family holiday special I could absolutely get behind.

This ATM Started Accidentally Giving People $100s and Everyone Took Advantage

Who hasn’t dreamed of coming into copious sums of money completely by chance and out of nowhere? Heck, I’ve thought about it just so my wife and I can pay off our student loans. Whether it’s a casino jackpot, or a lottery, or being related to some long-lost relative who decided to leave their estate to only me for whatever reason, I sometimes find myself dreaming of getting free cash.

But these people who recently went to an ATM machine didn’t have to fantasize to get something for nothing. When they went to this Bank of America machine in Texas, it started dispensing $100 bills instead of $10s.


That’s right, their accounts were only dinged for $10, plus whatever $2 or $3 ATM fee they might’ve been hit with when the machine instead spewed out a bunch of Benjamin Franklins into their hands. Customers discovered the error on Monday night at around 12am. Some people get all of the luck, don’t they?

Naturally, humans being the greedy bunch of jerkwads who can never play nice and are always on the brink of destroying anything remotely good, started fighting with each other so they could get at the money before it was all depleted at the ATM.


Once word got out, lines of cars began queuing up at the machine. Bank of America had confirmed the vendor put the bills in the wrong slot. So when people selected the $10 option, the machine thought it was spewing out tens, but instead barfed up the $100s. After owners of the machine discovered the mistake, they shut the ATM down.

I know what you’re thinking: all ATMs are outfitted with cameras, and it’s easy for a bank, especially with an ATM, to keep track of all the money that was loaded into and taken out of their machines. They probably also had visuals of people’s faces, not to mention their account and personal information.


Banks aren’t necessarily known for their generosity. I mean these are the same people who have no qualms with tacking on overdraft fees after your bills come out and you forget to transfer some money over from savings. They’re usually a sneaky, vile and heartless lot, just ask this dude who had his house foreclosed on by Bank of America for no reason.

But in an uncharacteristic move of unbankliness, BOA decided to not hunt the people down for the hundreds of dollars they withdrew. In fact, they publicly stated that everyone who benefitted was free to keep the cash.


Talk about an early Christmas! Since most ATMs limit customers from pulling out more than $500-$600, individuals with a single ATM card and account could’ve netted themselves anywhere from $4990-$5990. And if you have family members or a spouse or partner with their own bank card, you could’ve made some serious cash.

People all over the internet were lamenting the fact that the ATM was in Houston, Texas, and that they couldn’t have been so lucky with their own local cash machines. I mean who couldn’t use an extra $5-$6k?


This isn’t the first time an ATM malfunction worked out in someone’s favor. There’s security cam footage of this young man who was just standing outside an ATM, minding his own business and trying to get a bit of cash. That’s when the ATM started spewing money at him like a dream come true.


Then there was that fateful ATM malfunction that resulted in $37,000 being tossed out to a homeless man, totally by accident. Customers started getting suspicious after seeing the man take so long to collect his money. Way to narc on someone who hit the jackpot!


More often than not, however, ATM malfunctions aren’t a good thing, something this man learned the hard way when he went to take some cash out of an ATM. The money was “taken” from his account, but it never came out of the machine.


Try explaining that to a bank, right? What stinks is that the man’s bills were due in a few days and he was left high and dry. Thankfully, Fox 46 investigated the ATM and discovered that the machine was indeed malfunctioning. So they called up the bank and got the gentleman his money back.

Then there was this poor dude who tried depositing $880 into his bank account via ATM. The machine happily gobbled up his money, but wouldn’t return it. Even worse, the cash taken by the machine wasn’t reflecting in his account balance.


He was only able to get $680 back, as the machine was only “over” that amount when the bank checked. Better than nothing, I guess? Here’s hoping if you ever experience an ATM malfunction, it’s like the ones mentioned at the top of this story, because losing money sucks.



A Unfortunate Airline Incident Inspired This Man to Spread Parkinsons Awareness

When Bryan Roberts arrived at LAX after a business trip in Burbank, the airport was bustling with holiday travelers. Instead of using his red-eye ticket back to New York, Bryan chose to give up his seat on the overbooked JetBlue flight.

But what the Ithaca College associate dean and communications professor did not yet know was how horribly he’d be treated by the airline, which had been his favorite until that day, he tells Distractify exclusively.

Bryan, 38, suffers from Parkinson’s disease and had been coming out of a week-long business trip in Los Angeles when he was supposed to fly home to New York. “I was pretty symptomatic and the flight, as always, was overbooked,” he tells me over the phone.


After staying out late the night before, his symptoms started to flare up. “The things that affect Parkinson’s symptoms the most tend to be stress, lack of sleep, and when you get off your medicine cycle,” Bryan says, and the uncomfortable hotel beds, PST time change and his business trip stress contributed to all of that. He decided to embody some holiday spirit and give up his seat on the plane, thinking he’d bench himself that evening and just fly back to New York the next day. “I figured I’d get some sleep and it would just be better for everyone,” he recalls.

Thinking he’d made “the right decision,” Bryan approached the counter to figure out the next steps for switching his flight, something you’d imagine is quite routine for airline employees working frequently overbooked routes.

But the woman behind the counter was “just awful” to him. And the people who facilitate wheelchair transportation within the airport were even ruder and more condescending, with one flat-out ignoring him and another laughing openly in his face, saying he was welcome to sit down for a ride until they could give the wheelchair to “someone who needs it.”

Finally, a nurse who recognized his symptoms as Parkinson’s disease came to his rescue, shooing the nosy LAX crowds away so he could finally “get some air” and leave the terminal — all while the JetBlue employees stared at him without the slightest offer to help from just a few feet away.


When he finally managed to leave LAX that day, it wasn’t just that he was openly mocked, humiliated, and had his feelings hurt. He was also seriously injured by the uncaring JetBlue employees. “These a**holes let me fall a few times, so I had to go to the hospital on Saturday. I thought I was really badly concussed and I thought I might have broken my shoulder. I’m still wondering what’s going on, it’s killing me,” he says.

However, he chooses to “focus his energy on the positive.” Bryan recalls the first responders who helped him out of LAX as “awesome.”

“They helped me out, ended up booking a hotel for me, took me to the hotel, gave me clothes, and actually checked up on me the next day,” he tells me.

But the Parkinson’s activist wants the airline to take a serious look at their behavior and do right by him. So far, that hasn’t been the case.

“JetBlue finally reached out to me a few days [after the incident],” he says. “And the woman who calls me … was like, ‘I’m sorry you couldn’t control your Parkinson’s, I understand because I happen to have MS,’ and the conversation kind of proceeded that way, where it was more my fault than theirs.”


“‘If you’ve had Parkinson’s for ten years, you’d think you might be able to control your symptoms better,'” is actually a sentence this JetBlue employee uttered, per Bryan’s recollection. “Then she offers me a hundred dollar gift certificate,” he adds.

But Bryan doesn’t want the money — he just wants to raise awareness after hearing “more and more stories about this kind of treatment at that terminal, late at night.”

In Bryan’s view, we’re long overdue for a cultural shift in society where “empathy” and “trying to understand each other” are fundamental values.

“Let’s be better today than we were yesterday, let’s do better tomorrow than we did today” is a phrase he repeated over the course of our interview. What does doing better mean in the context of his unforgivable JetBlue experience?


“I’d like a real dialogue,” he says. “I don’t want their one employee with a neurological illness to call me and assume we have common ground. I’d like to speak to the CEO or CFO or someone who really makes decisions and ask them, ‘It’s probably likely that one of you will develop Parkinson’s, looking at the rate in which it’s being diagnosed in the world … or their parents may, or their kids might, unfortunately. How would you like them to be treated?”

Granted, it’s much easier to other someone who looks or acts differently from us, but Bryan wants people to know that “Parkinson’s and many neurodegenerative illnesses do not discriminate.”

“I didn’t do anything to deserve this disease,” he tells me. “I just got it. 1 in 40,000 people, I think, develop it under 30, and me and Michael J. Fox, we were diagnosed at 30.”

“I’m not going to sit and let it define me,” he says. “Honestly, there’s so much more in my life going on.”

But the lack of compassion he was shown by JetBlue employees just proves “there’s a long way to go, not just for Parkinson’s, but for empathy.”

Until we change as a culture, Bryan is committed to holding JetBlue accountable for their actions. “I’m not going to stop until there is change,” he tells me unhesitatingly.

Parkinson’s disease affects more than 1 million people in America and over 4 million people worldwide. It’s time we took a good look at ourselves and pledge to treat our brothers, sisters and neighbors with mutual love and understanding.

A 22-Year-Old Who Makes $25K a Month, Plus More Unrelatable Money Diaries

Conventional wisdom will tell you to never compare yourself to other people: it just makes you feel inferior. Instead, you should focus on doing what makes you happy to the best of your ability. And if you want to follow this conventional wisdom, then I highly suggest you stay away from these money diaries.

I’m all about the whole “working for you” thing, but it’s kind of hard to feel secure and good about yourself and what you’re doing when there are people much younger and less educated than you making an absolute killing in their respective lines of work.

Like this 22-year-old entrepreneur who nets an average $25,000 a month. Yes, you read that right, they make that amount, on average, times 12, every single year. Refinery29 covered how this young woman spends her money in a single week and, for the amount of money she makes, she’s actually pretty responsible.


But people understandably freaked out about just how much dough she’s pulling in on average. She was able to launch a successful handbag business for herself, and the diary entries of her day actually seems pretty chill.

There’s a lot of Netflix watching, hanging out with her boyfriend, and she doesn’t follow a traditional 9-5 routine. She is, however, making the right moves, especially when it comes to saving her money. She squares away some $20,000 a month in high-interest yield savings accounts.


It gets better/worse, because it turns out that the post-publication edits to the piece show that the young entrepreneur actually earns even more money than was originally reported. She just reinvests a lot of it back into her business.

Of course, people had plenty of jokes and recommendations for how this young woman is spending her money. However, I’m probably going to side with the person who’s just out of college and earns way, way, way more than I do. Clearly she’s doing something right.


There were, of course some people who felt that online publications do money diaries on only obscenely wealthy people who don’t really reflect what the average human being takes home from their job(s).


But Refinery29 was quick to point out that they do, in fact, write “money profiles” on everyday, normal folk who aren’t earning tens of thousands of dollars while working on their successful self-owned businesses.


But I’d be remiss in failing to mention that some of these “regular folks” are not really earning what they say they’re earning. Case in point, this intern who lives in NYC on only $25/hour.


What the original headline for the article fails to mention is that this young woman technically isn’t living in NYC just on the $25 she earns. She’s actually receiving a lot — and I mean a lot — of help from her parents.


The publication changed the headline to reflect that she has a monthly allowance from her parents of $1,100, not to mention that they also cover her rent, which comes in at a whopping $2,100 a month.

It was the object of so much ire online that popular writer Roxane Gay even chimed in.


If you ever wanted to see a money profile that’ll infuriate you to no end, look no further than this couple, who both work jobs with decent salaries (a combined income of about $160k a year, before taxes, not including the bartending gigs dad takes from time to time).

On the one hand, I can almost commiserate with these folks. I feel like I’m breaking my back working a full-time job and all the side gigs I’m constantly taking on. I never get more than 5-6 hours of sleep a night and am constantly creating and searching for other sources of revenue. And I know I’m not saving nearly as much as I could be saving due to a combination of vacations/trips/things I like doing.


But I know I’m not in as bad of shape as they are, because I haven’t even dreamed of trying to own a home — I know I can’t make the combination of mortgage payments in my area and the property taxes that come along with them.

They elected to move into a bigger house and often buy their kids expensive meals, like $15 Whole Foods sushi with smoothies. Not to mention the super pricey private school tuition they clearly can’t afford.

Probably the saddest part of the story is when Tom and Kate, the couple in question, talk about how they can’t even afford to get divorced.  Kate says that one of the reasons they stay together is that it just makes sense financially to keep trucking along in holy matrimony.


What’s most maddening is that, despite their above-average combined incomes, they just can’t manage to get out of debt and they don’t even truly know how much they’ve incurred. Instead, they choose to bury their heads in the sand while signing up for the many unsolicited credit card offers that come in the mail.

Honestly, that seems like what a lot of people are doing now. With massive amounts of student loans, people can’t seem to afford things like clothes and incidentals, so they charge them. Oh well, there’s always the Powerball or that one great idea you’re just waiting to show the billionaires on Shark Tank.