Boston and Canada, giving of thanks and Christmas are knitted together in this true story that began almost 100 years ago, on December 6, 1917, during World War I.
That morning, a ship in the port of Halifax, Nova Scotia, carrying 2,500 tons of high explosives and with a load of monochlorobenzene, blew up, shattering the 3,000-ton vessel and spewing destruction over 325 acres. The explosion leveled whole neighborhoods, killed more than 1,600 people instantly and severely injured over 9,000 others. More Nova Scotians were killed in the explosion than were killed in World War I.
As described by Public Radio International, news of the disaster and calls for help soon reached the outside world. By that night, a train left Boston carrying surgeons, nurses, people from the Red Cross, and medical equipment. The train stopped along the journey northward to pick up more workers. It was stalled by a blizzard, but arrived in Halifax a little less than 48 hours after the explosion.
The need was staggering: people were hurt and blinded; children were orphaned; houses were destroyed; the weather was frigid; victims needed burial.
Boston’s support continued for months.
In December 1918, Nova Scotia donated a large Christmas tree to Boston as a thank-you for the city’s help. The gift was resumed in 1971, and has continued every year since then. Read more about the reverential and ceremonial effort that Nova Scotians put into choosing and transporting the tree.