Sepia Saturday - Boston's Official Christmas Tree

On December 6, 1917, the people of Halifax, Nova Scotia Canada were shocked to hear the sound of an explosion. Others did not have enough time to be shocked because they were blown away literally by the blast. The city was devastated when Mont Blanc, a French cargo ship which was loaded with wartime explosives, accidentally collided with the Norwegian ship Imo in “The Narrows” section of the city harbour.

The initial blast left almost 2000 people dead, usually by fires, debris and collapsed buildings. Later deaths pushed the number up to over 2000 while more than 9000 people were injured.

This is considered the largest man-made, non-nuclear explosion even up to now. Approximately two square kilometers of the city was obliterated and wiped out. The neighbouring communities of Dartmouth and Richmond were also affected. The blast also caused a tsunami in the harbour. The tsunami caused a pressure wave of air snapping trees, demolishing buildings and grounded vessels and blowing fragments kilometres from the explosion site. A portion of the Mont Blanc's anchor was found more than two miles from the scene

Within 24 hours of the blast in Halifax Harbor, the city of Boston rallied, gathered supplies, and sent off relief trains to Halifax. It is a gesture Canadians have not forgotten.

In 1918, Halifax sent a Christmas tree to the City of Boston in thanks and remembrance for the help that the Boston Red Cross and the Massachusetts Public Safety Committee provided immediately after the disaster.

That gift was revived in 1971 by the Lunenburg County Christmas Tree Producers Association, who began an annual donation of a large tree to promote Christmas tree exports as well as acknowledge the Boston support after the explosion. The gift was later taken over by the Nova Scotia Government to continue the goodwill gesture as well as to promote trade and tourism. The tree is Boston's official Christmas tree and is lit on Boston Common throughout the holiday season. Knowing its symbolic importance to both cities, the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources has specific guidelines for selecting the tree. It must be an attractive balsam fir, white spruce or red spruce, 12 to 16 metres (40 to 50 ft) tall, healthy with good colour, medium to heavy density, uniform and symmetrical and easy to access.

This year is the 40th year that Nova Scotia, the balsam-fir capital of the world that annually produces nearly 2 million Christmas trees, has donated a tree to Boston, in continued thanks for the city's help in providing relief to the city following the devastating explosion.

The tree this year was donated by Gary and Rosann Misner of Kentville, Nova Scotia. It will be ceremonially cut down on November 16, transported on a flatbed truck.

The lighting ceremony will be December 3rd on Boston Common. 


dakotaboo said…
I'd never heard of that disaster or the accompanying story before - thanks for sharing. In the UK we receive a Christmas Tree from Norway every year in thanks for suport during WWII. The tree is placed in Trafalgar Square.
Unknown said…
I learned something new here too, must have been quite the event, I can imagine the consternation. Interesting how it has sparked the wonderful tradition of the tree.
Nancy said…
This is a bit of history I'd never heard before. The explosion and the after-effects were horrendous. What a great tradition to send a tree to Boston. Thanks again for sharing.
Christine H. said…
I wondered if maybe I had been asleep in the classroom during that lesson, but I guess others hadn't heard about it either. Fascinating and very touching.
Barbara said…
So interesting and what a nice tradition.
MuseSwings said…
Boston's quick response to the people of Halifax was due in part to the wonderful care and attention paid by Halifax to the victims of the Titanic just 5 years earlier.
Marilyn & Jeff said…
Such an interesting post, I can't imagine such devastation. Wonderful story of the Christmas tree.
Alan Burnett said…
What a fascinating story. As a native of Halifax (Halifax UK rather than Halifax NS) I knew nothing about this. A great Sepia Saturday contribution.
a tale of compassion and solidarity that crosses the border quite well. thanx 4 sharing something like this. gives me faith into mankind...

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