Christmas spirit filled the Boston Common Thursday night for the 69th annual tree lighting ceremony.
The tree, a 50-year-old, 50-foot tall white spruce, was donated by a couple from Nova Scotia. For 39 years, Novia Scotia has been providing Boston with a tree as a thank you for Boston’s assistance following the explosion of a munitions ship in Halifax harbor in 1917.
“We know you were here in our time of need in 1917,” Deputy Premier of Nova Scotia Frank Corbett told the crowd. “Our capital lay in ruins and who came to help us? The city of Boston.”
Boston University College of Arts and Sciences freshman Bobby Patrovic said he was excited to attend the lighting ceremony simply because he loves Christmas and all the lights.
“I’m excited to be with college students from around Boston and be in the Christmas mood, and get away from studying,” Patrovic said.
Bolivian and Columbian students from the Approach International Student Center, a school where immigrant students can learn English, came with their teacher on a field trip.
“There’s no special ceremony [in Bolivia],” said Approach student Paola Liendo. “We have some lights and some things, but it’s nothing like this. It’s my first Christmas here, so I’m so excited about the lights and the spirit of Christmas.”
Massachusetts resident Tom Chace said he has been attending the tree lighting ceremony for the past 20 years, and for the past eight years has brought his grandson, Tommy.
Chace said he continues to come back both to see the tree and to spend time with family and friends. He said he enjoys coming back to Boston Common, especially after it snows, to walk around and look at the other trees that have been decorated with lights.
“There’s no place like New England for Christmas,” he said.
People had filled the area by 6 p.m. to watch the entertainment – local singing groups as well as the Boston Arts Academy took part. American Idol finalist Katharine McPhee and the Radio City Rockettes were featured as well.
The Rockettes performed several holiday numbers dressed in Santa Claus outfits, and McPhee opened her act with a rendition of “Jingle Bells”.
Absent from the proceedings was Boston Mayor Thomas Menino. Last year, a knee injury kept him from attending the tree lighting ceremony. He was scheduled to appear this year, but was hospitalized at Brigham and Women’s hospital for an adverse reaction to antibiotics used to treat an infection.
Six-year-old Janie and her mother Esdefani were anxiously waiting for the tree to be lit, and enjoyed the musical entertainment.
“[The performances] are great,” Esdefani said. “The only thing is that it’s hard to see.”
The audience also had the chance to see Santa Claus.
“I’m excited to see Santa,” said 6-year-old Katie. She said that he was her favorite part of the holiday, and that she wanted a horse for Christmas.
The excitement in the crowds rose as the time to light the tree drew near. Children were perched on their fathers’ shoulders so they could see the stage, where Santa Claus was joined by Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman. They helped the audience count down the seconds for the tree to be lit.
When the clock struck zero, the giant tree lit up, and the crowd erupted in cheers as Christmas music filled the air and fireworks exploded around the tree.
After the presentation, the crowd started to disperse, but the atmosphere remained merry. Along with the main Christmas tree, 80 other trees were strung with lights all around the Common.