Aren’t tulips beautiful? But could you imagine planting thousands of them a year. Canada holds one of the world’s largest tulip festival every year, displaying over one million tulips. Large displays of tulips are planted throughout the city and its largest display of tulips can be found along the Rideau Canal with 300,000 tulips planted there alone. Canada didn’t just decide to start growing tulips out of the blue but received them as a yearly gift from the Dutch royal family. In 1945, the Dutch royal family sent 100,000 tulip bulbs to the Canadian capital city of Ottawa, in gratitude for having sheltered Princess Juliana and her daughters during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. The most significant event during their time in Canada was the birth of Princess Margriet to Princess Juliana at the Ottawa Civic Hospital.
The hospital was temporarily declared extraterritorial by the Government of Canada, to ensure that the princess would hold exclusively Dutch nationality instead of a dual nationality. The reason for this is because dual nationality would have affected her standing in the line of succession for the Dutch throne. Princess Margriet still remains as the only royal personage ever to be born within North America. When the news of the princess’s birth was released, the Dutch flag was flown atop the Peace Tower in Ottawa and Dutch music rang out from its bells. The princess’s birth was seen by the Dutch as an important symbol of hope and a source of inspiration. As a display of gratitude for her stay in Canada, Princess Juliana presented to the people of Canada a number of gifts, including 100,000 tulip bulbs. In 1946, Juliana sent another 20,500 bulbs and requested that a display be created for the hospital. She also promised to send 10,000 more bulbs each year.
The tulip festival started off as an outdoor jubilee with concerts but was later redesigned to focus on promoting international friendship, the original symbolic role of the gift of tulips. Queen Juliana returned to celebrate the festival in 1967 and Princess Margriet returned in 2002 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the festival. 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). In Canada, the tulip is more than just a flower, but an everlasting reminder of both beauty and friendship.
Post by Arvin Ramdas