• By: Keith Whittier

Celebrating the Flower of Freedom

This month the 2015 Canadian Tulip Festival marks the 70th anniversary commemorating the close ties between Canada and the Netherlands. The close ties between the countries can be traced back to the liberation of the kingdom of Netherlands, when Holland’s Princess Juliana and her family sought refuge from the invading German military during the Second World War.

IMG_0249In 1943, Princess Juliana gave birth to Princess Margriet at the Ottawa Civic Hospital. The Canadian Government granted the newborn full Dutch citizenship; in efforts of ensuring the Princess maintain her line of succession to the throne. Canada was then presented with 100,000 tulip bulbs as an expression of gratitude from Holland. These roots stemmed the 1953 beginnings of the Ottawa Tulip Festival, which was later named the Canadian Tulip Festival.

Each year, the Netherlands sends 20,000 tulip bulbs to Canada as a symbol of their appreciation. The Canadian Tulip Festival attracts more than half a million visitors to the capital. It is the largest festival of its kind in the world.

On Saturday, May 8, I toured the first full day of the tulip festival with my son. I have heard it said that spending time with your children is more important than spending money on your children. The Ottawa Tulip Festival is definitely a great place to start!

We began our day with a complimentary horse and carriage ride—a return trip from Dow’s Lake to Somerset Street West. The tour was accompanied by great music, friendly smiles and an aura of patriotic freedom.

Wanting to take full advantage of the festivities, we cruised the Ottawa River in a canoe for an hour. A well-spent $16!

IMG_0207 (1)The festival is a garden of family-fun; with a blooming stretch of activities for children, including climbing structures, games, sports, arts workshops, souvenir kiosks, daily tea-time and cultural performances.

But what happened to the history of the festival, the patriotic ties and…well, the tulips? As I began writing this story, my six-year-old son commented, “Mom what you should write is that the tulips are not as nice this year.” Perhaps he has a valid point.

The tulips and all of their natural beauty seem to be taking a backseat in recent years to the other attractions being offered. The tulip stands as more than a flower, as it represents the liberation of the Netherlands from the grasp of Nazi Germany. We must try to remember this as we gaze at the 50 varieties of tulips on display at Dows Lake. The noted Ottawa photographer Malak Karsh spent his life photographing and capturing the beauty of the tulip and his memorable images remain as a testament to this wonderful gift from the Dutch people.

As my son and I took in the grand display of the flowers, I couldn’t help but think the real focus of the festival should be on what the tulip really stands for: the flower of freedom. After all, freedom is truly beautiful.

Make sure to catch the 2015 Canadian Tulip Festival, on now until May 18.

Click here for more info.