BLUES MILLS, N.S. -- A massive Nova Scotia Christmas tree has begun its journey to Boston, part of a tradition that recalls how New England residents helped Halifax after a massive explosion ripped through the provincial capital 100 years ago.

Each year the province cuts down a tree and sends it as an act of gratitude for the trainload of volunteers and supplies that was sent to assist thousands of injured and homeless citizens in the city devastated by the Dec. 6, 1917, blast.

The 100th anniversary tree is a 45-year-old, 16-metre white spruce that was cut down in a ceremony Wednesday in Blues Mills, about 38 kilometres from Baddeck in Cape Breton.

Bob and Marion Campbell and their family are the donors.

"We have been blessed to have a tree worthy of donation in recognition of the speedy and compassionate response by the people of Boston to the Halifax Explosion," Bob Campbell said in a news release.

"Our family is thrilled to be part of the Nova Scotia tradition of honouring Boston's relief efforts especially on the 100th anniversary of this tragic event."

Waycobah First Nations resident John William Cremo conducted a smudging ceremony, and an honour song was performed by Mi'kmaq drummers to mark the occasion.

Several hundred school children were also in attendance from the Whycocogomagh Education Centre, the We'koqma'q Mi'kmaw School, and the Inverness Education Centre.

The tree was cut down by community college students and loaded onto a Department of Transportation flatbed truck.

The truck left for Halifax, where a send-off ceremony is to be held Friday in front of city hall before the tree is transported to Boston.

Boston's mayor will be joined by members of the RCMP on Nov. 30 for a tree-lighting ceremony on the Boston Commons, in which 7,000 lights are turned on.

"This annual tradition represents our ongoing gratitude to Boston for their assistance in our time of great need, a century ago," said Margaret Miller, Nova Scotia's Minister of Natural Resources.

The explosion, the result of a collision between a relief vessel and a munitions ship in Halifax harbour, was the largest human-made blast on record before the first atomic bomb.