The Canadian Tulip Festival is held every year in May in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. It showcases around a million tulips and has an attendance of over 500,000 visitors annually. Other than being the world’s largest tulip festival, the Canadian Tulip Festival also serves as a reminder of the unique connection between Canada and the Netherlands.
Second World War
On multiple occasions during the Second World War, Canada and the Netherlands have maintained friendly relations and have also helped one another out a few times. During 1945, the First Canadian Army was responsible for liberating the Netherlands through battles such as Battle of the Scheldt and the Liberation of Arnhem. A notable conflict is that of the liberation of Randstad. The civilians there suffered from the effects of the ‘Hongerwinter’ (Hungerwinter). Randstad was cut off from the food that was available in the rest of the Netherlands. By the time the German forces surrendered Netherlands, 18,000 Dutch civilians had died as a result of starvation and malnutrition.
As a part of Operation Manna, the Royal Canadian Air Force had coordinated several food drops over German-occupied Dutch territory. To show their gratitude, civilians wrote ‘Thank You Canadians!” on the ground in tulips. Following the surrender, Canadian units were able to move into Randstad and rapidly distribute the much-needed food supplies. This led to many seeing the Canadians as not only liberators but also saviours.
The Tulip Connection
Succeeding the German occupation of the Netherlands, the Durch royal family took refuge in Canada. Princess Juliana and her two daughters stayed in Ottawa for around three years. It was there that Princess Margriet was born. The maternity ward of Ottawa Civic Hospital in which she was born was temporarily declared to be extraterritorial by the Canadian government. The Canadian Parliament voted for the governorship to be Dutch territory for one day. This allowed her citizenship to be solely influenced by that of her mother. Additionally, to commemorate the birth, the Canadian Parliament even flew the Dutch Flag over the Peace Tower. This is also the only time a foreign flag has soared over the Canadian Parliament Building.
In order to show their gratitude, the Dutch royal family sent 100,000 tulip bulbs to Ottawa in 1945. In 1946, Juliana sent another 20,500 tulip bulbs requesting that a display is created for the hospital and promised to send 10,000 more bulbs each year. The donations became an annual tradition, culminating in the Canadian Tulip Festival.