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What is connection between Canada’s capital, tulips, and the Liberation of the Netherlands?

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Since 1953, Canada's most colourful festival celebrates the tulip, Ottawa's official flower and an international symbol of friendship and peace, through art and culture. The Canadian Tulip Festival "preserves the memorable role of the Canadian troops in the liberation of the Netherlands and Europe, as well as commemorates the birth of Dutch Princess Margriet in Ottawa during World War II—the only royal personage ever born in Canada." Every year since the war, the Netherlands has sent thousands of tulips to Ottawa, in appreciation for Canada's sacrifice of more than 7,600 soldiers, sailors and aviators who died fighting in the Netherlands and for providing safe harbour to the Dutch royal family, which lived in exile in Canada during the war. This tribute of millions of tulips set the stage for a celebration of authentic art, cultural, historic, culinary, garden and family tulip experiences. This tulip festival is considered one of the largest events of its kind in the world and typically begins on the second Friday of May and runs until Victoria Day. While tulips are proudly grown and displayed throughout Canada's national capital, the major venue for the Canadian Tulip Festival is at Commissioners Park.

The celebration of the gift of tulips and Canada's role in the liberation of the Netherlands during the Second World War has been especially marked at Beechwood Cemetery – Canada's national cemetery. For many years, in partnership with the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, it has held an annual ceremony on 4 May in 'Remembrance of the Dead' (Dodenherdenking). As said by Mr. Nicolas McCarthy, Director of Marketing, Communications and Community Outreach at Beechwood Cemetery: "during the national commemoration of Remembrance Day we remember all victims – civilians and soldiers – who have been killed or murdered in the Kingdom of the Netherlands or anywhere else in the world in war situations or during peace-keeping operations since the outbreak of the Second World War." The following day, May 5th, is 'Liberation Day' (Bevrijdingsdag) in the Netherlands and is a public holiday to commemorate the day the Dutch were liberated by the Allies from Nazi occupation.

Shown in the photograph are some of the tulips found surrounding the large waterfall pond within the botanical cremation gardens. These are only but a portion of the more than 35,000 tulips planted each spring throughout its one-hundred-and-sixty-acre property. According to Mr. Rabin Ramah, a Canadian from Guelph, Ontario and international botanical photographer of "one million tulips" for Google, he conducts an annual pilgrimage to Beechwood Cemetery to specifically photograph their tulip gardens as he regards Beechwood's tulips among the most beautiful in the world.

On this day, 13 May 2022, we commemorate 78 years since the Liberation of the Netherlands during the Second World War and mark the beginning of the 70th edition of the Canadian Tulip Festival in Ottawa, Ontario.

André M. Levesque

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