Halifax Explosion Christmas Tree
By George Fullerton
Following the 400 kilometre trip from Cape Breton to Halifax, the Christmas tree commemorating the 100 year anniversary of the Halifax explosion embarked on its 1,100 kilometre final leg of the journey to Boston Common.
On December 6, 1918 an explosion in Halifax Harbour killed nearly 2000 people and injured an additional 9,000 while destroying much of the city’s housing and infrastructure.
The French flagged ship the Mont Blanc and carrying explosives collided with the ship Imo in Halifax Harbour. The resulting explosion was the largest man made explosion to that date in history.
The day following the explosion the City of Halifax was hit with a severe blizzard, further aggravating the condition of the survivors and the injured.
The city of Boston reacted to the tragedy within a couple days, shipping desperately needed supplies along with medical personnel to care for the injured.
Medical staff from Boston worked side by side with all the medical staff Halifax was able to muster. The medical crews had to make do with reduced facilities since so many buildings had been destroyed or were uninhabitable as result of explosion damage.
Some 360 doctors arrived in Halifax to attend the injured, of which about one third were from Boston. Five temporary hospitals were established to handle the medical emergency.
As a thank you for that effort, the following year the province of Nova Scotia provided a Christmas tree to the city of Boston which was erected in Boston common.
The Christmas tree for Boston was established as an annual tradition in 1917. Every year DNR staff seek out a large symmetrical balsam fir, white spruce or red spruce to become the iconic tree for Boston.
Often the Christmas tree is harvested form Crown land, but occasionally a tree from a private woodlot succeeds through the selection process, after which it is prepared for shipping, harvested and loaded on a tractor trailer for its trip.
The 2017 Christmas tree for Boston came from Blue Mills, Cape Breton. The tree, a 53 foot tall white spruce, came from a property owned by Marion and Bob Campbell.
The tree was harvested on November 15 and trucked off to Halifax to become a focus for the centenary recognition of the explosion which had devastated the city.
Following ceremonies and a parade which featured the Boston tree, the trip to Boston commenced with a stop off in Augusta, Maine to commemorate the state of Maine’s contribution to the disaster relief a century ago.
The Boston Christmas tree arrived in Boston Common on November 21, and was erected and subsequently decorated to celebrate the Yuletide season and to mark the special connection between Boston and Halifax and the province of Nova Scotia.
A tree lighting ceremony was held November 30. The event, hosted by Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh and Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil, welcomed Santa and Mrs. Claus, along with thousands of Bostonians for the event which lit 7,000 lights on the remarkable tree, marking the strong bond between Boston and the province of Nova Scotia and the City of Halifax.☚