The city’s official Christmas tree was welcomed to its new home in Boston Common on Tuesday morning after a two-day journey from Nova Scotia and spectators celebrated the close friendship between two communities that arose from a tragedy.
James Stewart, a town crier from New Glasgow in Nova Scotia, Canada, lives just a 10-minute walk away from where the 45-foot white spruce tree was cut down in Black Point, Pictou County.
“There’s always been this really close relationship between Boston and Nova Scotia,” Stewart said. “There were traditional trade links that linked Nova Scotia and Boston, and in reality, Boston is really closer than any of the other major Canadian cities.”
This is Stewart’s sixth year as the town crier who welcomes the tree to Boston, but he said he never tires of coming to the city. He said the 60-year-old tree serves as a reminder of the help Boston provided in December 1917 when an explosion in Halifax, Nova Scotia, killed 2,000 people and left hundreds more injured or homeless.
After two ships collided in Halifax Harbour, causing the blast, Boston quickly responded by sending medical personnel and supplies.
Sandira Lopes, 9, was one of the students from Mather Elementary School who gathered at Boston Common to greet the tree.
Each year, students from the elementary school in Dorchester become pen pals with students from St. Stephen’s Elementary School in Halifax and learn about the tradition.
“They had to call help and they called help in Boston,” Lopes said. “All the doctors and the nurses, they got on a train to Nova Scotia and . . . every year they send us a Christmas tree to let us know that they appreciated what we did.”
This is the 48th tree that Nova Scotia has given to Boston for the holidays as a thank-you gift, said Ryan Woods, commissioner of Boston Parks and Recreation.
“They remember the aid that the city of Boston gave to them in 1917 and they never forgot it, and the people of Boston accept this tree and they consider this to be their official Christmas tree for the city,” Woods said.
Woods has been with the parks department for 14 years, but this was his first time welcoming the annual tree since he was appointed commissioner in July. He also attended the tree cutting Nov. 13 in Nova Scotia and said it was great to see it come full circle.
“It’s all about goodwill and giving thanks and friendship, and . . . I think that’s the message that rings true year after year and that’s why it’s important that we continue this tradition,” Woods said.
Nova Scotia also gave four smaller trees to be donated to local charities around Boston, he said.
Liana Long, another student from the Mather Elementary School, said she considers her pen pal to be one of her best friends.
“We think it’s very nice and sweet because it came from their heart and they were so very nice for sending it,” Long, 9, said. “We write [to our pen pals] about what happened, and we love them and they show a lot of appreciation.”
The festivities will continue with the tree-lighting ceremony in Boston Common on Dec. 5 starting at 6 p.m.