The Netherlands has been sending thousands of tulips to Canada every year since 1945 as a gift from the Dutch Royal Family in thanks for sheltering Princess Juliana during World War II.

The Canadian Tulip Festival, held every May in Ottawa, is the world’s largest tulip festival. It began because in 1945, the Dutch royal family sent 100,000 tulip bulbs to Ottawa in gratitude for Canadians sheltering Princess Juliana and her daughters during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. 

The festival started in 1953 in part because of how famous the tulips became. In 1967, Queen Juliana returned to celebrate the festival, and Princess Margriet (Princess Juliana’s daughter) came to visit in 2002 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the festival.

The festival also featured outdoor musical performances for years. In 1972, famous musician Liberace performed. In 1987, Alanis Morissette performed in her very first appearance at the age of 12. After several years of poor weather drove the festival to the brink of bankruptcy in 2006, the musical performances were cancelled. 

The following year, the festival was reorganized to promote international friendship, the original symbol behind the gift of tulips.