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Boston got a special treat from friends north of the border Thursday when the tree used in the annual holiday lighting ceremony on the Common arrived from Nova Scotia, ahead of the main event Dec. 2.

During a briefing on the Common Thursday, which unfolded as the massive tree was being wheeled in, Parks and Recreations Commissioner Ryan Woods reminded reporters of the storied, decades-old bond between Boston and Nova Scotia born from unspeakable tragedy.

“Every year for nearly half a century, Nova Scotia has provided Boston with its official tree as a thank you for the city’s response to the 1917 explosion in Halifax Harbor,” Woods said. “An estimated 2,000 people died and 9,000 more were hurt when a cargo ship carrying explosives collided with another ship. Boston authorities learned of the disaster by telegraph. They quickly organized and dispatched” a relief train to help survivors.

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Woods said a blizzard delayed the train, which arrived in the early morning of Dec. 8 in Nova Scotia.

People “immediately began distributing food, water, and medical supplies,” Woods continued. “Numerous personnel on the train were able to relieve the Nova Scotia medical staff. ... These traditions of friendship, goodwill, and helping others are what the people of Boston and Halifax have exemplified in the 104 years since our city sent assistance in the wake of such a tragedy. And we cemented our bonds of friendship for generations to come.”

Woods touted two milestones the Hub’s marking this year.

“This is the 80th year the city of Boston has lit the official tree on Boston Common, and this is the 50th consecutive year that the province of Nova Scotia has provided a gift of a Christmas tree for the occasion,” Woods said.

He urged people to come out Dec. 2 for this year’s lighting ceremony. The annual event has emerged as a beloved symbol of hope amid the looming harshness of an unforgiving New England winter.

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“Thursday, Dec. 2 for the official lighting of the tree,” Woods said. “It’s 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. here on Boston Common. If it’s too cold that night, you are welcome to watch from home on WCVB. They’ll be airing it live from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. So thank you all for coming out, and please enjoy this magnificent gift from the great people of Nova Scotia.”




Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.