The Canadian Tulip Festival traces its origins to a dark time in human history. It was 1942, and it became inevitable that the Netherlands was about to be invaded and occupied by Nazi Germany. For political and safety reasons the Dutch Royal family was shuttled covertly out of the country to Canada. Most notably during this time Queen Juliana and Prince Bernhard gave birth to their third child Princess Margriet, in the Ottawa Hospital, with the maternity ward being granted extraterritorial status, so that the new princess could be born a Dutch citizen.
After returning to the Netherlands in 1945 after the conclusion of the Second Great World War, as a symbol of gratitude, the Dutch Royal Family sent Ottawa 100,000 tulip bulbs for providing them sanctuary. In 1946, they sent another 20,000 more with the promise that 10,000 more will follow each year. So then, what's a capital city to do with all these flowers?
Throw a party of course!
In 1953, the Ottawa Board of Trade and photographer Malak Karsh organized the Canadian Tulip Festival. Queen Juliana was an honored guest in 1967 and Princess Margiet herself returned to celebrate the 50th anniversary in 2002. By this time there are over a million tulips of 100 different varieties planted in four locations around the Nation's Capital. Starting in May, Dow's Lake holds over 300,000 tulips, and you can also find giant beds planted around The Ottawa Hospital General Campus and Civic Campus, as well as Commissioners Park.
In between these stunning venues you'll be amazed and entertained with photography exhibits, live performances from international artists, special events, art installations, movie screenings, and special guided tours at both Parliament Hill and Rideau Hall, the home of the Governor General of Canada.
Ottawa's official symbol is the tulip so it's only fitting that our Ottawa Flowers logo includes a tulip as well. The tulip is not only a beautiful flower but symbolizes a rich history between two countries. Also, the largest flower auction in the world takes place in the Netherlands, so some of the flowers that end up in your bouquet have traveled along this historic and celebrated bridge between allies. The Canadian Tulip Festival is an breathtaking experience, one that draws tourists from all over the world and brings Ottawa residents a great time year after year.