From a Tragedy to Gift – 2020 Marks 103 Years of Friendship between Boston and Nova Scotia.
Every year Nova Scotia sends Boston a Christmas Tree. What started with a terrible tragedy has led to a tradition of kindness and gratitude that has sustained for 103 years and counting.
On December 6, 1917, the Mont Blanc, a French ship in Halifax Harbor, collided with another ship and caught on fire. The Mont Blanc was preparing to leave for Europe to fight in WWI and was full of munitions. When the fire reached the munitions, the ship exploded, killing more than 1,000 people and destroying entire neighborhoods in Halifax.
When word reached Boston of the explosion, Boston’s Mayor Curley extended Boston’s sympathies. The Mayor offered help for the “relief and prevention of suffering” in Halifax.
Almost immediately after the explosion, Massachusetts Governor Samuel McCall sent a group of doctors, nurses, aid workers, and medical supplies from Boston to Halifax. The group traveled 700 miles by train and was delayed by a severe blizzard. As Halifax struggled to recover, Bostonians continued to send groups of aid workers, supplies, and funds.
Many of the Bostonians who found themselves in Halifax for the Christmas of 1917 decorated the hospitals where they worked, putting up Christmas trees and other decorations. A year later, in December of 1918, Nova Scotia sent a Christmas tree to Boston as a thank you for Boston’s help after the explosion.
In 1971, Nova Scotia sent another Christmas tree to Boston in memory of the bond created between the two cities after the explosion. Nova Scotia continued to send Boston Christmas trees, establishing the Nova Scotia Christmas Tree lighting as a cherished holiday event.
Over the years, Boston’s tree lighting hasn’t always looked exactly the same, this year included, but the bond with Nova Scotia and their annual gift of a Christmas tree has become one of Boston’s most beloved holiday traditions.
This year’s tree is a 45-foot white spruce donated by Heather and Tony Sampson of West Bay, Richmond County, Nova Scotia. The annual tree lighting was a virtual broadcast this year but the tradition persists and is a continual reminder that we are all in this world together to help, support and to be generous. When we all do our part to help others amazing magic is created.