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With a ritual blessing and clean cut, Nova Scotians prepare Christmas tree for journey to Boston

This 60-year-old, 45-foot tall white spruce tree on the property of Desmond Waithe and Corina Saunders of Nova Scotia was readied for its long truck trip to Boston for the lighting on Boston Common on Dec. 5.
This 60-year-old, 45-foot tall white spruce tree on the property of Desmond Waithe and Corina Saunders of Nova Scotia was readied for its long truck trip to Boston for the lighting on Boston Common on Dec. 5.Brendan Ahern/The News/The News

Editor’s note: The annual pilgrimage of the Nova Scotia Christmas tree to Boston never fails to stir the holiday spirit in Metro Minute. Last week, we wrote about the couple who donated the tree. Here is an account, from a Nova Scotia newspaper, of the first steps in a journey that will culminate in a Dec. 5 tree-lighting on Boston Common.

BLACK POINT, Nova Scotia – It was a festive atmosphere in Pictou County on Tuesday as hundreds of people gathered in a wide ring around a 45-foot white spruce.

This tree, on the property of Desmond Waithe and Corina Saunders, will soon be Boston bound.

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“My sister lives in Boston,” said Theresa Benoit, who had traveled up from Antigonish to be there to see the tree come down. “I’m going to call her tonight and tell her that I’ve seen the tree getting ready to go.”

Since 1971, Nova Scotia has sent the city of Boston a Christmas tree to thank it for the support and aid for Halifax after an explosion 102 years ago killed 2,000 people and left the city in ruins.

This year, the Nova Scotia Department of Lands and Forestry chose the 60-year-old spruce from Pictou County to make the 684-mile southbound journey.

“I’m certainly going to miss the tree,” Saunders said. “It’s a beautiful tree.”

There were free coffee, snacks, and games for all the students who had come from school to take part in the festivities. The smell of wood smoke and sage permeated the chilly air, mixing with the scent of fresh snow that had fallen hours earlier.

Before the tree was cut, the crowd heard speeches from Lands and Forestry Minister Iain Rankin and from Ryan Woods, commissioner of parks and recreation for Boston, where the tree will arrive on Dec. 5 for a tree-lighting the same day on Boston Common, the oldest public park in the United States.

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Pictou Landing First Nation elder Ralf Francis blessed the tree in a “smudging” ceremony, and shortly after a man dressed as Santa Claus was hoisted skyward in a crane, fastening the trunk to be lowered gently to the ground.

As she watched the chain saw do its work, Saunders described the experience as bittersweet.

“It was really emotional. We’ve been here for 16 years and I’ve spent many days reading a book under the tree and enjoying the pleasure of it being here,” she said. “We feel so honored that everyone came out to send it off.’’

Saunders said that she and Waithe will soon be following their beloved tree down to Boston for the ceremony.

“I’m sure the people of Boston will enjoy it as much as I did, and we’re told that the celebration down there is spectacular, so to see it lit in its fullness is going to be wonderful.”