CHRISTMAS

Halifax continues tree-giving tradition

The Nova Scotia Tree for Boston starts its journey to its final standing place

The white spruce tree for Boston is 49 feet tall and 72 years old.
The white spruce tree for Boston is 49 feet tall and 72 years old.   Nick Holland

The wind and cold didn’t let up as people of all ages sang along with the Nova Scotia Mass Choir and ate hot sausages on skewers. About 200 people gathered at Grand Parade Square on Wednesday to send off the Nova Scotia Tree for Boston. The tradition started in the 1970s to thank the city of Boston for being the first to aid Halifax during the aftermath of the Halifax Explosion on Dec. 6, 1917.

Martha Grantham is a supervisor of the Natural Resources Education Centre, a part of the provincial Department of Natural Resources. She said it’s usually a long process to find the perfect tree.

“We have people ask the public to keep their eyes open,” she said. “It needs to be almost 50 feet tall or more and it needs to be healthy. We have a grading process where we look at how nice the shape is and how full it is. Then we work out a date with Boston to deliver the tree to them.”

What it means to Nova Scotians

Const. Shawn Flynn of the Halifax Regional Police said he felt honoured to be given the opportunity to do his part by escorting the tree and thanking the people of Boston.

“The tree is very symbolic of our province,” said Flynn. “From Lunenburg all the way up to Pictou County we harvest our trees and it’s very symbolic especially at this time of the year. I can’t think of anything better to show Boston our appreciation.”

Suzanne Lohnes-Croft is the MLA for Lunenburg County, which calls itself the Christmas tree capital of the world. She said although this tree is not from her riding, it’s the symbolism that matters.

“It’s a symbol of friendship that has endured for a long time between the city of Boston and Halifax,” Lohnes-Croft said. “With the 100th anniversary of the Halifax Explosion taking place in two years, I think we’ll see even bigger celebrations of this exchange.”

The tree’s journey

Andrea MacEachern and her husband Bill donated the 72-year-old white spruce tree to be sent to Boston. She said the tree was part of the property she and Bill moved into four and a half years ago in Pictou County.

“I said to Billy, do you mind if we donate [the tree] and he said not at all,” MacEachern said.

Although the province thanked the MacEacherns, MacEachern said she’s the one who feels blessed.

“I think we should be thankful that we could do this on behalf of the province to thank Boston for what they had done for us all those years ago,” she said.

New Glasgow town crier James Stewart will be handing the tree over to the city of Boston on Friday. He said the tree would be handed over to the Boston’s Parks and Recreation Department at the Boston Common.

“It’s a great tradition,” said Stewart. “Tens of thousand of people come out to the tree lighting in Boston. When we do the handover, there may be only 700 to 800 people but it’s still a great ceremony.”

An opportunity to say thank you

Acting Minister of Natural Resources Zach Churchill said gifting a Christmas tree to Boston is a celebration of love, compassion and sharing.

“This tree is a representative on behalf of all Nova Scotians,” Churchill said. “It’s a long-standing friendship and a great relationship we have with our friends in the south and I’m so proud to be a part of continuing that.”

Premier Stephen McNeil said this is a chance not only to remember the Halifax Explosion, but the act of kindness that Boston showed.

“I want to say thank you to the city of Boston for not just the way they responded to us in 1917 but for the continued friendship we’ve built over the century,” said the premier.

Memories

The sendoff holds special memories for Donna Reid Isnor. Isnor’s father cut the very first tree that was sent to Boston in 1968.

Shot by Linea Volkering and Nick Holland

Edited by Nick Holland