AMHERST – Veronica Richards still remembers the first time she saw Nova Scotia’s gift to the people of Boston shining in the Boston Common.
A Canadian studying in Boston she was invited to attend the annual Christmas lightup in the Massachusetts city several decades ago.
“It was really exciting because I was from Nova Scotia and felt this tremendous sense of pride being in Boston when it was lit up, knowing that it came from us,” Richards said Sunday as Nova Scotia’s latest gift to Boston made a stopover in Amherst – it’s last stop in Nova Scotia. “It’s was also nice to know how they helped us when we were in need. There’s something touching about it.”
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Halifax Explosion when several thousand were killed or injured when two ships collided in the harbour causing a massive blast that tore through the city.
Boston was quick to offer its assistance to Nova Scotia in the days after the disaster sending a relief train with food, water and medical supplies. Nova Scotia would send a Christmas tree to Boston that Christmas to say thanks, a tradition that was restarted in 1971 and continues to this day.
This year’s tree was cut in Blue’s Mills, Cape Breton Island.
Several hundred people greeted the tree at the Atlantic Superstore on South Albion Street early Sunday. Members of the Amherst Youth Town Council served cookies and hot chocolate from the Superstore, Drew Moore played and sang Christmas carols and New Glasgow’s town crier Jim Stewart welcomed to tree to its final Nova Scotia stop before crossing into New Brunswick.
Dave MacFarlane from Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal said it’s a tremendous honour to have been given the task of trucking the three to Boston for the last serveral years.
“This is my fifth year taking it down and each year it gets a little more exciting,” MacFarlane said. “It’s about a 13-hour drive, but we have a number of stops on the way down. This year, it’s going to take about a week from the time we cut it down to the time it arrives in Boston.”
After leaving Amherst later Sunday morning the tree made its way to the U.S. border at Houlton, Me. and eventually to Augusta for another ceremony before making its way to Boston where it will be lit up on Nov. 30.
Premier Stephen McNeil will be joined at the Boston ceremony by Nova Scotian artists Port Cities, Cassie and Maggie and Reeny Smith. The tree-lighting attracts about 20,000 people and is broadcast live on Boston television to 300,000 people.
Amherst Mayor Dr. David Kogon said the stopover in Amherst helped kick-off the Christmas season in town, coming a day after the Christmas parade that saw several thousand people line the parade route from downtown to the Amherst Centre mall.
“We love it,” Kogon said. “It just adds to the Christmas spirit in town. The thank you to Boston comes from the entire province, not just Halifax, and for us it’s nice to be the last stop in Nova Scotia. It’s also special given this is the 100th anniversary of the Halifax Explosion.”