Two years ago, Noel March was getting gas at Dysart’s truck stop in Hermon when he spotted a truck from Nova Scotia hauling a large Christmas tree.
It occurred to him, from a story he had heard in Nova Scotia years ago, that the tree was en route to Boston and was part of a longstanding tradition. Every year, the Canadian province donates a Christmas tree to Boston as a thank you to the city for its prompt aid after a deadly explosion on Dec. 6, 1917, in Halifax Harbour. The tree stands in Boston Common for the holiday season.
On Monday morning, when the truck carrying this year’s tree arrived at Dysart’s and made its way through the Bangor area, March and his family, and members of the Hampden Highlands United Methodist Church were there to greet it. They welcomed David MacFarlane and Sheldon Garland, the Nova Scotia Department of Transportation employees who were transporting the 46-foot white spruce, with a breakfast at Dysart’s and a tree blessing ceremony.
The tree was scheduled to arrive in Boston on Tuesday morning. MacFarlane and Garland were planning to spend Monday night in Billerica, Massachusetts.
“This tree quietly passes through our area, and we made a note of it today, and they were very grateful,” said March, who lives in Hampden.
During that gas stop two years ago, the sight of the tree on its way to Boston triggered a memory for March.
He remembered hearing about the 1917 collision in Halifax Harbour between two ships that caused the largest man-made explosion of its time. After receiving news of the explosion that killed nearly 2,000 people, officials from Boston sent prompt aid. First responders traveled up to Nova Scotia, and Boston residents raised $100,000 for Halifax’s rebuilding effort.
So March in 2016 went over to the truck to meet MacFarlane and Garland, who have been transporting the tree over 750 miles from Halifax to Boston for years.
Every year, a parade accompanies the tree as it leaves Halifax, and Bostonians welcome it with a tree lighting ceremony on Boston Common. This year’s tree lighting ceremony takes place Thursday, Nov. 29.
Back in Maine, March — a former U.S. Marshal for Maine and currently the chief of police at the University of Southern Maine — is eager to continue his nascent tradition, with plans to welcome the tree’s drivers every year as they stop in Maine.
“New York City has the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and Boston has their tree lighting,” March said. “Maybe this event will take root, so we can send that tree off with a blessing and a round of applause.”