Celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, the annual tree lighting is a staple of the local traditions ringing in the holiday season in the city. Thousands gather every year to storm the Common and partake in the festivities, with local celebrities performing and WCVB-TV broadcasting the event live on the air. This year's guests included Joey McIntyre of New Kids on the Block, American Idol finalist Siobhan Magnus, the Radio City Rockettes, Rockapella, the Boston Ballet and the Boston Children’s Choir. There was even a fireworks display! Once the Christmas tree is lit up, the entire city lights up with the rest of its decorations, from the lit stars hanging in Downtown Crossing, to the other trees strung with lights in the Common and Public Garden.
This tradition has an interesting history that many may not be aware of, however. For the past forty years, Boston's Christmas tree has been donated to us by the people of Nova Scotia, as a gift recognizing the assistance that the Boston Red Cross and the Massachusetts Public Safety Committee provided when the province's capital, Halifax, suffered an explosion in its harbor in 1917. The following year in 1918, the province sent its first Christmas tree, and then in 1971 the gift was revived by the Lunenburg County Christmas Tree Producers Association in order to spur Christmas tree exports in addition to acknowledging Boston's support in the disaster. Years later, the Nova Scotian government took charge of overseeing the annual gift in efforts of also promoting trade and tourism for the region. Realizing the importance the tree has come to have for both cities, the Nova Scotia Department of Naturnal Resources have defined a very specific set of guidelines for the selection of the tree.
In addition to donating the tree, representatives of the Nova Scotion government also make a point to attend the tree-lighting celebration, and the people of Nova Scotia also tend to support Boston's major sports teams!
This year's tree is a 45-foot white-spruce, donated by Ken and Donna Spinney of Central Argyle, Nova Scotia. According to BostInno, this year is the first year that the tree will be lit extra bright using 4000 LED lights, in addition to 48,000 other ones adorning the sixty other trees lit up in the Common and the Garden.
So, armed with your new knowledge about one of Boston's beloved holiday traditions, enjoy the rest of the day with your family and friends! In the meantime, you can also check out boston.com's photos showing what the official Christmas tree has looked like throughout the years. It looks like it used to be a lot taller back in the 30s. Click here!
Happy Holidays from Boston to a T!
-Aaron & Dan