HomeIn the CommunityLobster Trap Christmas Tree Tradition Continues

Lobster Trap Christmas Tree Tradition Continues

The Municipality of Barrington’s lobster pot Christmas tree will be lit for the season on Nov. 23, followed by fireworks in celebration of the start of the lobster season and the holiday season.

This year marks the 14th year the tree has stood stately on the North East Point waterfront near the Cape Sable Island Causeway.

“We have begun our plans for building this year’s tree,” said Suzy Atwood, Director of Marketing and Tourism Development for the Municipality of Barrington.

“It is anticipated to be the same size as last year. Last year, our property services team, myself and some community volunteers helped to construct the tree. We anticipate that will happen again this year.”

A buoy on the Municipality of Barrington’s lobster pot Christmas tree that remembers the 1964 tragic loss of the Jane and Judy, which was instrumental in bringing the first Canadian Coast Guard lifeboat station to southwestern Nova Scotia. Kathy Johnson photo

The tree is constructed from approximately 300 new or like new 15×9 American-style traps, many donated in memory of a loved one.

“The traps that make up the tree have all been donated by local fishers and businesses as well, but we also use some recycled traps that form the base and make up the centre,” said Atwood.

Atwood said around 200 buoys decorate the tree. Many are in memory of a loved one who was lost to the sea or made a living from the sea. Others are in tribute to existing fishers.

“Every year more buoys get added by family members,” said Atwood. “We have buoys that are local of course, but also representing fishers from Cape Breton, Digby and even Plymouth, Massachusetts who also host a lobster trap Christmas tree.”

Atwood said the two communities have exchanged buoys representing each other’s municipal unit, adding Plymouth also has lobster sculptures, as does the Municipality of Barrington.

“We always receive such a great response from the general public, our residents, visitors and online comments in regard to the tree. People really think it’s special and respond in such a positive manner,” said Atwood.

Suzy Atwood, Director of Marketing and Tourism Development for the Municipality of Barrington, attaches a buoy near the top of the Municipality’s lobster pot Christmas tree in 2022. Kathy Johnson photo

“For some people, it has a greater meaning to them of course, it holds the names of loved ones who have since passed and have been lost to the sea. It has become a place to come to reflect on those whom the tree holds their buoys, celebrate another lobster season and of course Christmas as well,” said Atwood.

Barrington’s lobster pot Christmas tree was first built in 2009 as a symbol of the community’s connectivity to the lobster fishery. Each buoy on the tree tells a story, some are about survival, some are about success and others are heartbreaking.

One of the most endearing stories on the tree to the community in that of the Jane and Judy. It was dumping day 1964, when Stillman Quinlan and his deckhand James Smith set out to sea to set their lobster traps aboard the Jane and Judy on its maiden voyage. High winds caused the vessel and crew to go down. Sea conditions made rescue efforts by local fishermen impossible.

The tragedy prompted an appeal to the federal government for a Canadian Coast Guard life boat to be stationed in Clark’s Harbour. Two years later, on Oct. 6, 1966, the Canadian Coast Guard cutter 101 arrived in Clark’s Harbour, establishing a lifeboat station that has been instrumental in many rescues at sea over the years.