Cheers erupted in the Boston Common as Mayor Michelle Wu, with the help of her two sons, flipped the switch to light a 60-year-old, 48-foot tree for the 80th annual Boston Holiday Tree Lighting.
Before the lighting, an hour-long event hosted by WCVB Channel 5’s co-anchors Anthony Everett and Shayna Seymour included appearances by Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston, Grammy Award winner Darlene Love, the cast of “A Christmas Story: The Musical” and Nova Scotia singer-songwriter Heather Rankin.
Wu was excited to welcome everyone back to Boston Common after last year’s virtual celebration, she wrote in a press release.
“As we light the tree to launch our holiday season, I’m thankful for the community and the chance to be together,” Wu wrote. “We as a city are grateful to Nova Scotia for this wonderful gift of a tree, enjoyed by Bostonians for half a century.”
In her first speech of the night, Wu said the annual tree lighting is an incredible moment that brings people together each year. She also encouraged people to take care of each other and to get vaccinated.
“We’ve seen during this difficult time how interconnected we all are,” Wu said. “But before the pandemic, before Zoom, before email or text messages 50 years ago, we were already connected, reaching out to see what we could do, how we could be of service in that moment.”
The event has also served as a decades-long link from Boston to Nova Scotia.
“It’s incredible to see that bond, and that friendship, continue to this day,” Wu said.
For the last 50 years, the Canadian Province of Nova Scotia, a premier sponsor of the event, has given a Christmas tree to Boston as a thank you for the relief effort after a major explosion of a munitions ship in Halifax Harbor Dec. 17, 1917.
Within 24 hours of the collision, Bostonians had loaded a train to help with the aftermath.
“The trees that we have been sending for 50 years is our way of saying thank you for being kind to Nova Scotia when we needed you the most,” Houston said.
Eric Lawrence, a 38-year-old from Northeast Boston, said the positive environment, snacks and people are what bring him back year after year.
“It’s pretty cool,” Lawrence said. “ Not too cold. It would be nice if it was snowing a little.”
Maria Velandia, a graduate student at Northeastern University, said she heard about the tree lighting from Instagram and particularly enjoyed the fireworks that closed the event.
“I just moved here from Colombia,” Velandia said. “I love Christmas. So we were like, ‘why not just go and check it out’”
People gathered all around the Boston Common watching performers and collecting giveaways from booths, including Dunkin’Donuts seasonal drinks, cookies from Levain Bakery and pastries from Drake’s Cakes.
While the tree was lit, members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Santa Claus, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman joined Wu and her family on stage.
Trees throughout Boston Common were covered with lights prior to the event, and a 22-foot-tall menorah has also been lit each night of Hanukkah close to the Christmas tree.
Lawrence said he encourages everyone to come experience the Boston Holiday Tree Lighting.
“I recommend coming to the tree lighting every year anytime you can,” he said.