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Lighting of Boston's Official Christmas Tree

The Boston Common Tradition Dates Back Some 40 Years

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boston christmas
Photo Courtesy Greater Boston Convention and Visitor's Bureau

Of all the Christmas events in Boston, perhaps the one that best signals the official kick-off to the holiday season is the lighting of the city’s official Christmas tree on Boston Common. While not as large as the tree at Faneuil Hall, this tree lighting is always a local event, covered live on TV, and featuring special guests. The Balsam Fir tree is annually donated to the city of Boston by Nova Scotia and 2011 marks the 40th year of this unique partnership.

On hand will be Mayor Thomas M. Menino, WCVB-TV (which will air the event live as part of “Chronicle”), on-air personalities from local radio station Magic 106.7, and a host of other guests including the Radio City Rockettes, Boston Ballet, renowned saxoponist Grace Kelly, Rockapella, former American Idol contestant Sioban Magnus, the Boston Children’s Chorus, and New Kids on the Block member Joey McIntyre. Last year’s tree lighting ceremony featured former American Idol contestant Katharine McPhee, the Boston Pops Gospel Choir, Pops conductor Keith Lockhart, the Rockettes, and Five O’ Clock Shadow, a local a capella group.

When: Thursday, Dec. 1, 2011, 6 p.m. The tree will be lit during the 7 p.m. time frame.

History: The history of Nova Scotia’s annual gift goes back to the Halifax Explosion of 1917. The Dec. 6 disaster that year took the lives of more than 1,000 people, and injured thousands more. The explosion was the cause of the S.S. Mont Blanc, a French cargo ship loaded with explosives, which collided with a Norwegian ship in the Halifax Harbor. Boston was among the immediate respondents, sending trains filled with emergency personnel north in order to offer aid. The annual donation is a traditional “thank you” for that help.

For a complete history on the Halifax Explosion, visit the CBC’s extensive site dedicated to the disaster, which remains the worst human-made one in history.

This year’s tree: According to the official Nova Scotia website, the 2011 tree was donated to Boston by Ken and Donna Spinney, and the annual tree cutting ceremony will take place on Nov. 15 in Central Argyle, Yarmouth County. The tree will be cut and lowered onto a truck bed with a banner that reads, “Merry Christmas, Boston.” According to the site, the following are stipulations should any Nova Scotia natives want to donate a tree:

- Balsam fir, white spruce or red spruce
- Twelve to fifteen meters (40-50 feet) in height
- Healthy with good color
- Medium to heavy density - Uniform and symmetrical - Easy to access.

What to expect: Fireworks will accompany the lighting of thousands of white lights, at which point residents in the neighborhood are encouraged to help light the Commonwealth Ave. Mall, a project fueled by the Committee to Light Commonwealth Avenue Mall. Refreshments will also be served at the event, sponsored by local and national businesses. Donations for the Commonwealth Ave. Mall fund can be made at www.BackBayLight.com.

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