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Nova Scotia begins annual ritual of feting its 'Tree for Boston'


OXFORD, N.S. — Nova Scotia's annual ritual of making a celebrity out of a tree began Thursday in Oxford, N.S.

The "Tree for Boston" was carefully cut down under blue skies as about 200 people watched, including carol-singing schoolchildren.

The 14-metre white spruce then began a four-day tour in which it will be feted and paraded and eventually make the 1,100-kilometre journey to Massachusetts.

The huge Christmas tree is a gift meant to show Haligonians' gratitude for the help Bostonians provided after the devastating Halifax Explosion 101 years ago.

The province's Lands and Forestry minister, Iain Rankin, was in Oxford for the tree-cutting, as was a Mi'kmaq elder, the local mayor and carollers from Oxford Regional Elementary.

"There was a lot of cheering, and a lot of flag-waving ... A large portion of the town of Oxford was there," said government spokesman Bruce Nunn.

The tree — which has its own Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts — was then put on display at the Rath Eastlink Community Centre in Truro, N.S., where an author was teaching local children about the Halifax Explosion.

"The children are making decorations to donate to homeless shelters in Boston," said Nunn. "They're made from little pieces of tree and they decorate them to go down with the Boston tree as our contribution to the Boston community."

It had been scheduled for a public sendoff at Halifax's Grand Parade on Friday morning with the mayor, U.S. consul, and others, but the province said Thursday the event had been cancelled "due to a forecast of inclement weather."

The tree is still scheduled to stick around Halifax for another day, and appear in Saturday night's Chronicle Herald Holiday Parade of Lights in Halifax.

On Sunday morning, it will be displayed once again, at the Amherst, N.S., Atlantic Superstore.

Nunn said Teresa Simpson — who donated the tree along with her partner Ross McKellar — along with members of her family and even some Oxford residents would be travelling to Boston for a tree lightening ceremony on Nov. 29.

Last year, the tree was given a Halifax police escort to the U.S. border, and also stopped in Augusta, Maine, en route to Boston

Caused by the collision of two wartime ships - one of which was carrying explosives - the Halifax Explosion killed about 2,000 people, wounded 9,000 and flattened a wide swath of the port city, including a Mi'kmaq village on the other side of the harbour.

It remains one of Canada's worst human-caused disasters.

In 2015, the province spent $234,000 transporting the tree and staging ceremonies in Halifax and Boston, where the annual tree-lighting on the Boston Common typically attracts about 20,000 people, and is carried live on local television.

The Canadian Press

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