The annual Canadian Tulip Festival symbolizes the strong bond between Canada and the Netherlands.
Dutch Crown Princess – later Queen - Juliana and her family lived in exile in Canadian capital Ottawa for five years during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands from 1940 to 1945. During that stay Princess Margriet was born in Ottawa’s Civic Hospital. Juliana’s third daughter is the only royal ever born in North America, and she has maintained a strong bond with Canada, visiting regularly.
In 1945, to acknowledge Canada’s accommodating and welcoming support, the Dutch royal family sent 100,000 tulip bulbs to the city. The gift of tulips became an annual tradition. To this day, the Netherlands continues to send 20,000 tulip bulbs to Canada each year (10,000 from the Royal Family and 10,000 from the Dutch Bulb Growers Association).
With more tulips arriving each year, Ottawa soon became known for its tulips as well as the touching backstory which started the city’s flowering affair. It was the impetus for establishing the annual Canadian Tulip Festival in 1953, which runs for around ten days in mid-May and revolves around five different venues in the city.
The festival is a symbol of international friendship. It also honors the veterans who liberated the Netherlands from Nazi occupation. These underlying themes are highlighted every year, and many agree that it is this maintained connection to its roots that makes this festival especially heartfelt.
For more in-depth coverage of the Canadian Tulip Festival, read Issue 41 of DUTCH the magazine. For more on the Dutch in North America, read Hiding in Plain Sight by Tom Bijvoet.
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