Metro

Boston, Nova Scotia mark friendship with Christmas tree

New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, town crier James H. Stewart led the way as Boston’s annual Christmas tree gift arrived on Boston Common.
Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff
New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, town crier James H. Stewart led the way as Boston’s annual Christmas tree gift arrived on Boston Common.

The ringing of a bell filled the air on the Boston Common Tuesday morning as Boston’s Christmas tree arrived from Nova Scotia, accompanied by a police escort and a town crier from Nova Scotia.

The crier, James Stewart of New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, has been traveling to Boston for four years in order to accompany the tree from Beacon Street across the Common to Tremont Street, ringing his golden bell and drawing a crowd of locals and tourists to the spot where the tree will stand for the holiday season.

“Just to be involved with the tree is amazing,” he said as he waited for the tree to arrive. “It’s a nice way to continue the natural link that has always existed between Nova Scotia and, as they call it up there, the ‘Boston States,’ ” a term that includes other New England states like New Hampshire and Vermont.

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Almost one hundred years ago, on Dec. 6, 1917, two ships collided in the Halifax Harbour, triggering an explosion that killed 2,000 people and injured 9,000 more.

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“When Halifax called for aid, the City of Boston responded, sending by train the much needed medical team and supplies” out into a blizzard, Stewart said in a declaration delivered to the crowd that assembled around the tree when it reached its destination.

The blizzard cut Halifax off from many others who wanted to help, leaving “20,000 survivors destitute,” the Globe reported at the time. But Boston still set out to help, bringing food and clothing along with medical supplies and first responders.

The Boston Daily Globe on Thursday, Dec. 13, 1917, showed Boston nurses working in Halifax and the high totals of Boston’s relief fund for that city.
The Boston Daily Globe on Thursday, Dec. 13, 1917, showed Boston nurses working in Halifax and the high totals of Boston’s relief fund for that city.

In 1918, Halifax sent Boston a Christmas tree to express its gratitude. The city did it for the second time in the 1970s, and since then, it’s sent a tree every year for more than 40 years.

Kenneth Prescott of South Boston was one of the few who chased the tree across the Common, filming the event for friends in Nova Scotia. He said this year’s tree is especially significant because it underscores 100 years of friendship between Boston and Nova Scotia.

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“We helped them out so well in 1917,” he said. “Boston was instrumental in giving them a lot of help.”

Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

When the tree came to stop near the Park Street T station, a crowd of more than 50 people had gathered, including about 35 students from the Mather Elementary School in Dorchester, Boston and Nova Scotia officials, and Santa Claus himself.

“This tree . . . embodies the spirit of Nova Scotia — warm and welcoming,” Leo Glavine, minister of community, culture, and heritage for Nova Scotia, told the crowd. “It’s our way to say ‘thank you’ for supporting us in our time of need in 1917.”

Mary Gianino lives in Lowell and is a native of South Boston, but her mother was Canadian. She was standing in the crowd, proudly waving the flag of Cape Breton Island, where this year’s tree was grown.

She has come to see the lighting of the tree in years past, but when her mother died last summer, she and her family in Canada knew she had to be there when the tree arrived.

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“It’s so incredible that they’ve continued this whole tradition of coming and thanking us,” she said. “It’s goodness at its best.”

Freddy Smith, 9, of Dorchester (right) waved the flag of Nova Scotia as the tree arrived on Boston Common.
JESSICA RINALDI/GLOBE STAFF
Freddy Smith, 9, of Dorchester (right) waved the flag of Nova Scotia as the tree arrived on Boston Common.
Soldiers searched for victims in the aftermath of the Halifax explosion in 1917.
Maritime Museum of the Atlantic
Soldiers searched for victims in the aftermath of the Halifax explosion in 1917.
The front page of the Boston Daily Globe on Dec. 7, 1917.
The front page of the Boston Daily Globe on Dec. 7, 1917.

Alyssa Meyers can be reached at alyssa.meyers@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @ameyers_.