Story behind the photo: Boston Christmas Tree Lighting

The Boston Christmas Tree lighting took place on December 1st on Boston Common. It was a two hour event with different performances on stage. Just before 8pm, the tree was finally lit and fireworks went off around it.

The tree lighting has a long tradition, what I did not know was the story behind the Christmas Tree Lighting. It goes back to December 6, 1917. The world was still involved in World War I. Halifax Harbor in Nova Scotia was used a lot in these days for war-related cargo shipments to and from Europe. A French ammunition ship loaded with explosives destined for Europe exploded that day when it collided with a Norwegian ship, leading to death and destruction for countless people.

While relief trains from other cities in Nova Scotia arrived later the day of the explosion, Boston sent the first relief train the night of the explosion. While heavy snowfall delayed its arrival, it arrived on December 8th at 3am. It was the beginning of a large relief effort, that later included design of the health care system in the area. This gave Boston the reputation as (outside) city that arrived first and left last.

In 1918 the city of Halifax sent Boston a Christmas tree to express gratitude for the relief effort.

In 1971, the tradition was revived and has continued since. The Christmas tree is donated by a private party, and guidelines exist for the selection of the tree. This year’s tree is from Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, and the a video of the tree cutting is available on Youtube. Thank you to the Spinney family for this beautiful tree!

Trees are often donated in memory of relatives who died in the explosion.

When I learned about the history of this tradition, it reminded me that we never know how our actions can positively affect people’s lives in the future. People in Nova Scotia still remember what people from Boston did almost 100 years ago.

Thank you for stopping by, Happy Holiday Season,


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