Advent Calendar: Merry Christmas from Boston!

The 2013 Christmas tree on Boston Common.

Have absolutely no idea why nobody has managed to get a decent photo of this year's tree, including CBS, but it's decorated the same as 2013's -- a cascade of colored lights and a big blue star on top. I know, because I was just down there, and failed at getting a photo myself. 

For more blurry pictures of this year's tree, and a lot of much better shots of the other things that went on during the tree lighting ceremony, try here at Boston Magazine.

In past years, CBC has managed to get some of the nicer shots, including the one used above. Why the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation comes down to report on a Christmas tree in Massachusetts is kind of a story. In 1917, two ships collided in Halifax Harbor, one of which was loaded with munitions intended for the war in Europe. A fire started, and the subsequent explosion leveled about half the city. Learning of the disaster via telegraph, the Boston Red Cross was one of the first outside organizations to respond, sending an immediate train full of medical personnel and supplies, despite there being a blizzard in the way. (Apparently the regional railroads knew how to handle fucking snow back then. I think of this every time my MBTA local train gets stopped by slush on the rails.) The city followed up by shoveling several pots of money at Halifax once the rescue effort was over and the rebuilding began.

I've never been up to Nova Scotia, but judging from Wikipedia, cutting the tree down and seeing it off entails at least as much of a production as setting it up here. I'm informed it used to be put up in the plaza at the Pru, but the brouhaha was shifted to the Common before I moved here. 

Being as we are in Boston, where a solid 5% of the population professes to be Jewish when the census guy comes around, there was also a colossal menorah downtown in the Back Bay. Also being as we are in Boston, it was sitting in Copley Square, directly between a historic church and the public library, because that's where important stuff goes. They had a slightly smaller one on the Common, in the vicinity of the lit tree.

The welter of Christmas lights visible in the background of the photos for the magazine story are typical. Greater Boston has a propensity for throwing lights into the trees anyway; some of the trees in Harvard Square and in the road medians in Somerville are lit year-round for no apparent reason. They also string lighted banners up above the roadway. Designs vary. Out here in Brighton they're mainly stars, whereas in Central Square in Cambridge the banners sport a lot of celebratory stick figures that I can only describe as the apotheosis of Holmes' "dancing men". Downtown by the Common they tend to be starbursts in LEDs, as if fireworks had been suspended in time. 

The main difference between normal and Christmas is that during the Christmas season, there are also lights wrapped around fences, lampposts, the bandstand on the Common, various administrative buildings, the State House, balconies, railings, etc etc etc. Anything that'll sit still long enough, really. The tree lights and overhead banners tend to be left up through February, because in New England it gets dark before rush hour is over through most of the winter. Presumably it's cheaper (and prettier) than just installing more streetlights.