Dozens of school children waved tiny Nova Scotia flags as the province's annual Christmas tree gift to Boston was sawed down in Ainslie Glen, Inverness County Tuesday. It's the first time a tree from Cape Breton is being used.
"The help that we got out of the Boston area almost 100 years ago at the time of the Halifax Explosion is an enduring gift which Nova Scotians appreciate," said Nova Scotia's Natural Resources Minister Lloyd Hines.
"I think that Nova Scotia, being the kind of folks that they are, really appreciates that and they do like to reciprocate."
In addition to the tree being a symbol of thanks to Boston, Hines said it also highlights the importance of Nova Scotia's Christmas trees to the local economy.
'This is about thank you'
"It provides a lot of income and jobs for Nova Scotians and the New England market is very important for our Christmas tree industry," Hines said.
A CBC News investigation revealed the annual tradition of sending the tree down to Boston and promoting the event costs Nova Scotia taxpayers $242,000. Hines said it's worth the money.
"It's a relatively good savvy media purchase," Hines said. "This is about thank you, this is about appreciation for the great support we got from the Boston area ... It's a regular process, that's how we promote ourselves. And promoting it in that nearby populous market with all the good relationships we have is smart business."
'Symbol of friendship'
During his speech, Hines told the crowd about how Cape Breton helped during the Halifax Explosion. He said a relief train travelled from Sydney to Halifax. He said inventor Alexander Graham Bell's wife, Mabel, sent clothes down — including one of her husband's heavy winter coats, some dressing gowns and pairs of woolen underwear.
Brett Walkins is originally from Boston but now calls Cape Breton home. He said it was a special experience to witness the tree cutting.
"It's a good symbol of friendship between the province and the city of Boston for helping out all those years ago," said Walkins. "It's a nice tradition here and it's neat to see first hand what I had seen as a child growing up down in the city."
'Important day for our community'
Suzanna Prosper, a teacher at Whycocomagh Education Centre, said seeing the tree cutting is an experience she and her students will remember for a long time.
"It's the first time it's in Cape Breton so it's a big important day for our community as well," she said.
The tree's official send off to Boston will happen Wednesday at Halifax's Grand Parade.
A previous version of this story said the total amount spent on the Christmas tree to Boston in 2015 was $250,000. The correct amount is $242,000. This version has been corrected.Nov 16, 2016 4:22 PM AT