Halifax Explosion

Halifax sends ‘best tree we’ve ever had’ to Boston in annual tradition

Tree for Boston dedicated to first responders this year

The Tree for Boston arrives in Halifax for annual send-off.   Taylor McCuaig

Few can champion a friendship that lasts a century, but Halifax and Boston are doing just that, through a white spruce Christmas tree.

The tree arrived at Grand Parade on Friday to start its 1,000 km journey. It’s a thank you gift to the U.S. city for their help following the Halifax Explosion on Dec. 6, 1917.

Within hours of the explosion, Boston equipped a train full of 33 doctors and 16 nurses, along with medical supplies for Halifax.

Town criers Jim Stewart and Lloyd Smith raise their bells in appreciation of Boston.   Taylor McCuaig

“It’s these reciprocal friendships that we need in turbulent times to remind us that we have a lot more in common than we do that separate us,” Christopher Cook, parks and recreation commissioner for Boston, told the crowd at Grand Parade.

The square was full of people ready to celebrate the arrival of the tree. It had been chopped down earlier in the week in Cape Breton and trucked to Halifax.

Trying to will the rain to snow, carolers from East Coast Caroling Co. sing their rendition of White Christmas.   Taylor McCuaig

Bob and Marion Campbell grew the tree in their backyard in Blue Mills in Inverness County.

“We’re extremely proud to donate the tree,” said Campbell in an interview. He called himself a “tree roadie” and said he and his family will be following the tree to Boston.

The tree is 45 years old and reaches a staggering 16 metres high — about the height of a five-storey building.

This year’s gift is a white spruce from Inverness County and is 16 metres high.   Taylor McCuaig

Deputy Premier Karen Casey, who was also in attendance Friday, said people had repeatedly told her it was “the best tree we’ve ever had.”

“I would be remiss if I didn’t give kudos to the driver of the truck who was able to manipulate that truck through the city of Halifax,” she said.  

1,000-km journey

Halifax has sent a tree to Boston every year since 1971. This year’s tree is dedicated to first responders, many of whom were standing in uniform behind the stage as officials spoke.

“First responders played a major role in 1917, helping our city, our people and our province,” said Leo Glavine, minister of communities, culture and heritage. “That is why we have dedicated this year’s tree to those who came to our aid in 1917, and continue to do so every day.”

Const. Lawrence Tench and Const. Kristie Fraser from the traffic unit escorted the tree to Grand Parade.   Taylor McCuaig

Mi’kmaq Elder Doug Knockwood reminded the crowd at Grand Parade that the Halifax Explosion also had an effect on the Mi’kmaq people. The Turtle Grove community was on the Dartmouth shoreline, and was destroyed in the explosion. Knockwood said he wanted to personally thank the people of Boston for their help in 1917.

“This Christmas tree goes to Boston, not only with our love but with our blessing,” he said.

The tree will be decorated and take part in Halifax’s Parade of Lights Friday evening before it continues its journey to Boston.