Christmas Island family donates 45-foot tall tree to thank Boston

Dozens of people gathered and cheered as the tree was cut.  (Brett Ruskin/CBC - image credit)
Dozens of people gathered and cheered as the tree was cut. (Brett Ruskin/CBC - image credit)

Nova Scotia's annual thank you present to the city of Boston is coming from Christmas Island, fittingly.

The 45-foot white spruce was cut down Wednesday morning in the Cape Breton community on the shores of the Bras d'Or Lake.

The huge Christmas tree is a gift to the people of Boston for providing medical personnel and supplies to Nova Scotia in the aftermath of the Halifax Explosion 105 years ago.

On Dec. 6, 1917, the Mont-Blanc, a French munitions ship, and the Imo, a Norwegian steamship carrying Belgian relief supplies, collided in Halifax harbour. It remains the worst disaster in Canadian history, killing 2,000 people and injuring 9,000. Besides the casualties, two square kilometres of Halifax were levelled by the blast.

Brett Ruskin/CBC
Brett Ruskin/CBC

The first Tree for Boston was donated in 1971 by Joseph Slauenwhite from Lunenburg County. This year's tree was donated by Roddy Townsend, who owns the land, along with his children Angela, Carmen and Andrew.

Angela MacNeil, Townsend's daughter, said the land originally belonged to her mother's family and both she and her mother grew up there.

Brett Ruskin/CBC
Brett Ruskin/CBC

"Our mom would always say 'Oh my God, wouldn't these be the most beautiful Christmas trees?'" MacNeil told CBC News at the tree cutting event.

"It's just majestic looking I think."

The Tree for Boston will leave Halifax on Nov. 21 for its 1,100-kilometre journey to Massachusetts. A tree-lighting ceremony for the white spruce will take place at the Boston Common on Dec. 1 at 7 p.m.