If you have happened to obtain the opportunity to visit Ottawa in the spring, you know that the various parks in the Canadian capital explode with vibrant tulips all over each and every year. There is a rich and remarkably fascinating history behind this occurrence, and the Netherlands-also referred to as the tulip capital of the world happens to play an integral role in this tradition that has been thriving for 75 years now.
Why does the Netherlands send tulips to Canada? In 1945, the Dutch royal family delivered 100,000 tulips as a token of appreciation for taking in Princess Juliana and her family after they were forced to flee due to W.W.I.I, as well for helping liberate the Netherlands. This tradition is kept alive with a celebration called the Canadian Tulip Festival.
Let’s go ahead and dive right in to see exactly how and why this truly spectacular custom between countries came to fruition!
The History Behind This Tradition
We must travel way back to the year 1945 when we ask the question of why exactly does the Netherlands send tulips to Canada. The Dutch Princess Juliana and some of her family were unfortunately forced to flee their country in 1940 when Nazi Germany I.n.v.a.d.e.d the Netherlands during the Second World W.a.r.
They fled to Ottawa, Canada, where they were kept safe for three years until the Netherlands was liberated from Nazi Germany, which Canada also assisted in doing. Princess Juliana also gave birth to her daughter, Margriet while she was staying in Canada.
The Start of the Canadian Tulip Festival
After Princess Juliana was able to finally return home to the Netherlands safely in 1945, she sent 100,000 tulip bulbs as a token of her deep appreciation to Ottawa. The Dutch royal family did this as a thank you to the country of Canada for keeping Princess Juliana and her family there safely, for helping liberate the Netherlands from the Nazis, and for providing Princess Juliana and her daughter Margriet with great care after she was born.
The hospital Margriet was born at used the 20,000 tulips they received to create a beautiful display. Today, the Canadian Tulip Festival is considered to be the biggest tulip festival in the entire world.
Since the year 1945, Canada’s capital of Ottawa has filled many of its magnificent parks with hordes of colorful tulips, and every year the festival seems to grow in size. The festival is truly a testament to the thriving relationship between the Netherlands and Canada.
Each year the Canadian Tulip Festival has a specific unique theme they follow. Dazzling displays are created out of the millions of tulips they now have every year to honor the respective theme of the year.
Does the Netherlands Still Send Tulips?
It just so happens that the Netherlands still sends 20,000 tulip bulbs to Canada annually, coming from both the Dutch royal family as well as the Dutch Bulb Growers Association. This tradition really is deep-rooted, literally, and figuratively. It has played a major part in keeping a healthy and strong relationship between the countries of Canada and the Netherlands.
When Canada receives their tulips, 10,000 of them go to the garden bed Ottawa Hospital that Princess Margriet was born at to honor her and the strengthened bond that her birth created between the Netherlands and Canada. The other 10,000 tulip buds go to a bed that honors Queen Juliana in Commissioners Park.
The Canadian Tulip Festival Today
The Canadian Tulip Festival is typically held in the middle of the month of May each year. If you have attended the festival in recent years, you would know that it is truly a spectacle and is accompanied by live music, vendors, and of course stunning tulip bulb displays.
There have been many years where the tulip festival has focused on honoring countries throughout the world, such as Turkey and England. Musicians such as Canadian native Alanis Morissette and Liberace have performed at the festival in the past. After catching some live tunes, you can go and peruse the multitudes of awesome food trucks for a picnic amongst millions of lovely tulips.
The climate in Ottawa in the month of May is typically in a very comfortable range between a high of 19° Celsius and a low of 8°C. Strolling through the gardens all around Ottawa is seriously an experience like no other, you will undoubtedly want to have your camera at the ready to capture as many pictures to remember as possible.
In the year of 1967, Queen Juliana was able to travel and experience the Canadian Tulip Festival for herself. In 2002, her daughter Margriet paid a visit to partake in the remarkable 50th anniversary of the festival. An astounding number of about 3 million colorful tulips are a part of the Canadian Tulip Festival each year now. A kind gesture of gratitude really has flourished into a marvelous ritual that no one could have ever predicted.
Canadian Tulip Festival 2017, Ottawa:
The Best Tulip Displays in Ottawa and Gatineau
There are several parks that the hundreds of thousands of yearly visitors can go see the tulip gardens at. The city of Gatineau is in very close proximity to Ottawa, so tulip displays can be found in various gardens in both of these areas.
Commissioners Park happens to have the highest concentration of tulips during the Canadian Tulip Festival. There might be as many as 300,000 tulips in this park during the festival to see! Walking along the thousands of colorful flowers next to Dow Lake is an experience like no other. The Queen Juliana Gift Bed is located in Commissioners Park, which is where 10,000 of the tulips Canada is sent are planted each year.
Major’s Hill Park:
Major’s Hill Park can be found in downtown Ottawa, and the tulips planted here are exceptionally beautiful with historic French-Canadian architecture all around the perimeter of the park.
Garden of the Provinces and Territories:
This is a quiet park that is worth a leisurely stroll around when the other parks get too overcrowded. The elegant Christ Church Cathedral, which was built in the late 1800s, can be seen from this park, as well.
Malak’s Bed is located in Gatineau and offers otherworldly views of the tulips next to the Ottawa River and Canadian Museum of History. This park also happens to honor the well-known Canadian photographer Malak Karsh. Karsh played a major role in helping with organizing the very first Canadian Tulip Festival.
Lastly, Montcalm-Taché Park, in Gatineau, is a delightful park in the region that showcases multitudes of vivid flowers all around. You can also get the chance to see one of Gatineau’s oldest buildings here.
The 75th Anniversary of the Canadian Tulip Festival
The remarkable 75th anniversary of this festival of flowers was meant to happen in May of 2020. The Covid-19 pandemic happened to alter those plans, and instead, the management of the festival had no choice but to get creative and hold the festival virtually instead. High-quality footage and photography were used to capture the immense numbers of tulips, and people all around the globe were still able to appreciate the festival.
The fact that the festival was able to be transferred to be completely virtual is honestly incredible when you think about how and why exactly the tradition of the Netherlands sending tulips to Canada began in the first place. When the festival eventually returns, it will be a tremendously joyous occasion for all.
Queen Juliana, unfortunately, p.a.s.s.e.d a.w.a.y at the age of 94 back in the year 2004. As long as the Netherlands continues to send Canada tulips each year, her legacy and impact on the world will live on for many generations to come.
The fact that the Netherlands has kept such a meaningful tradition alive for almost over 75 years is truly remarkable. You now hopefully have a comprehensive understanding of why the Netherlands sends tulips to Canada.
What may seem like just a fun festival that takes place every year in the capital of Canada also happens to have an extraordinary historical significance embedded into it.
By: Leo van den Berg/ aboutthenetherlands.com