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Boston's Tree Lighting Is Virtual This Year. Here's How To Watch

BOSTON, MA - DECEMBER 5: Fireworks explode around the Christmas tree on Boston Common at the conclusion of the festivities at the 78th annual tree lighting at the Boston Common on Dec. 5, 2019. (Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - DECEMBER 5: Fireworks explode around the Christmas tree on Boston Common at the conclusion of the festivities at the 78th annual tree lighting at the Boston Common on Dec. 5, 2019. (Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

The City of Boston's official Christmas tree will be lit Thursday night on Boston Common in a virtual event, after being postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

There will be some performances during the lighting ceremony, including one by reggae icon Shaggy:

The tree is an annual gift from the people of Nova Scotia to the people of Boston, as a thanks for assistance following a 1917 explosion in Halifax.

The tradition gained wider attention this year because of a Nov. 26 Twitter thread from the Canadian Forces In the United States. It told in great detail the history of the Halifax explosion and the assistance from Boston. The story has been retweeted more than 20,000 times.

The collision of two ships in the harbor and the resulting explosion killed nearly 1,800 people and injured thousands more. Ships filled with medical personnel and supplies arrived from Boston days later. The city, along with other New England communities, donated money to relief efforts.

"It matters to say thank you to people," said Stephen McNeil, premier of Nova Scotia. "It matters that you remember how people have come to you ... when we were in such a devastated point of our history."

Because the land borders between the United States and Canada remain closed, this year, the tree was sent by boat instead of by truck. It arrived in Portland, Maine on Nov. 19 and was brought to Boston Common the next day.

Despite the pandemic, there was never a consideration to postpone this year's gift.

"This is too important for the people of Nova Scotia," McNeil said. "This pandemic, as hard as it is and as tough as it is, is not going to rob of us every normalcy. It's robbed many of them; some of them we're going to preserve."

This year's tree is a 45-foot white spruce from West Bay, Nova Scotia. The lighting ceremony will air on WCVB-TV at 7 p.m.

Dan Guzman Twitter Senior Producer, Morning Edition
Dan Guzman is senior producer for Morning Edition at WBUR.

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