Canadian Tulip Festival: A story of international friendship and peace

With spring in full bloom, the city of Ottawa is gearing up for its 65th annual Canadian Tulip Festival.

A multi-award winning flagship festival, the Canadian Tulip Festival dates back to 1953 and is considered the largest event of its kind in the world.

However, there is much more to the history of this festival; it is a story of international friendship and peace.

During the Second World War, after the Nazis invaded the Netherlands in 1940, the Dutch Royal Family was evacuated from the country and eventually, Canada was chosen as the safe harbour for Princess Juliana and her children.

The Princess and her children resided in Ottawa for a majority of the Second World War, and she even gave birth to her third daughter, Princess Margriet, in 1943 at the Ottawa Civic Hospital. The hospital was declared international territory to ensure the newborn princess would be given her mother’s nationality.

Princess Margriet is the only royal personage ever born in Canada.

Towards the end of the Second World War, Canadians were tasked with the liberation of the Netherlands. They fought from Sept. 1944 to April 1945 to free the Netherlands of German forces.

Because of the role Canada played in supporting the Netherlands, the two countries established a special bond, marked through tulips.

“Queen Juliana gave several thousand tulip bulbs after the war to Canada in grateful appreciation, ”said Terry Hunter, a re-enactor co-ordinator of the Canadian Tulip Festival.

The Netherlands has gifted tulips to Canada ever since.

The Canadian Tulip Festival, which is produced by the Canadian Tulip Legacy, celebrates the history of this royal gift every year.

This year’s Tulip Festival, kicking off on May 12 and running through May 22, will be especially significant with the celebration of the festival’s 65th anniversary. Four distinct venues have been arranged across Ottawa-Gatineau to mark this milestone.

A number of special exhibitions and events are planned for this year’s Canadian Tulip Festival at the Landsdowne Park Tulip Gallery, Dow’s Lake, ByWard Tulip Park; and Garden Promenade Tulips – City Tulip Tour Experience.

The Festival will also include a World War Two encampment at Landsdowne Park, commemorating the liberation of the Netherlands and showcasing the equipment the Canadian Army would have used during the Second World War.

“We hope to see a lot of people come down to take the opportunity to visit our displays and be able to get a hands-on approach to handling the equipment their fathers, grandfathers, uncles, brothers, mothers, and grandmothers would have used during the Second World War,” added Hunter.

For more information or to purchase tickets visit the official Canadian Tulip Festival website.


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Mishall Rehman

Originally from Atlanta, GA, Mishall is a freelance journalist pursuing her passion for writing in her new homeland Canada. She currently lives in Trenton, ON with her husband.

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