The Kensington Goes Out: Boston’s Annual Christmas Tree Lighting

Each year in Nova Scotia, 400 miles north of here, a call goes out to find the perfect Christmas tree — and donate it to Boston:

The province wants Nova Scotians to be part of the annual search for the perfect Nova Scotia tree for Boston. Anyone knowing of a white or red spruce or balsam fir that is 12 to 15 metres high (40-50 feet), with good symmetry, and easy access, should contact their local Natural Resources office.

Once the Nova Scotia tree is chosen, elaborate cutting and lighting ceremonies bookmark its journey from Canada to the Boston Common. Boston’s lighting of the tree takes place steps away from The Kensington and marks one of our favorite events of the season — a joyous gathering of music, caroling, hot cocoa and a spectacular ice-skating show. The evening culminates with the mayor of Boston flipping the switch that illuminates the remarkable, towering tree.

The story behind this annual gift is a poignant one. In December 1917, Nova Scotia suffered the loss of nearly 2,000 people in an explosion, when two ships collided near the coast. Boston doctors and emergency responders quickly boarded a train with supplies and did their best to help in the aftermath. In gratitude, the people of Nova Scotia sent the city a tree the following December, and a beautiful tradition was born.

Normally occurring within the first few days of December, the tree lighting is a crowd favorite that draws folks from their Beacon Hill brownstones — and from much, much farther away. (Santa himself even makes an appearance.) For us, witnessing the event just adds to our love of this city, while also sweetening our appreciation of our spectacular bird’s eye view of the Boston Common.

Watch the City of Boston Parks Department calendar for details. 

Image: Boston Magazine