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Canada and the Netherlands bonded during World War II.

The Dutch, like a lot of other people in that war, were badly abused but bore up heroically under Nazi occupation. Holland had been neutral when the war began, but Hitler didn't think much of that -- the place was ripe for the picking and, with Belgium, offered a relatively easy route by which to invade France from the north. The panzers rolled over the border in 1940.

The royal family and senior government officials took off for London, where they ran a nominal government in exile and waited for the war to end. Queen Wilhelmina's daughter Princess Juliana, however, headed for Ottawa, Canada, where she wouldn't be endangered by the Blitz.

Juliana gave birth in 1943 to a daughter, Princess Margriet, the sister of the current Queen Beatrix. Canada's Parliament got the floor of the hospital where she was born, Ottawa's Civic Hospital, declared territory of Holland, so that the baby -- who was, of course, in line to the Dutch throne -- would be born on Dutch ground.

In 1945, when the war was over and everyone had gone home, the Netherlands presented Canada with 100,000 tulip bulbs as a gesture of thanks. The next year, Juliana made a gift of 25,000 bulbs, and every year since, Holland has sent 10,000 more.

Every spring, Ottawa holds a "Tulip Festival," using the Dutch gift as an excuse for a medium-sized civic party with concerts, ceremonies, and pretty damned spectacular floral displays in civic gardens all over town.

The gift wasn't just for playing good hosts to the Queen's daughter and granddaughter, though.

In April and May, 1945, the 1st Canadian Corps, the biggest, most Canadian unit there had ever been -- made up of Canadians, not soldiers from around the Commonwealth, commanded by Canadians, not Brits, equipped by Canadians and supported by Canadians -- stormed through Holland, smashing German resistance and liberating the country.

Canadian supply lines fed a lot of Dutch civilians, who'd been starved partly as a pacification move by the Nazis and partly because, at that stage of the war, there simply wasn't enough food to go around anymore.

To this day, several Dutch towns incorporate maple leaves in their crests or coats of arms. In 1995, the 50th anniversary of the liberation, Holland invited what veterans of the campaign were still alive to a commemoration. Amsterdam held a parade in the veterans' honour, with tens of thousands lining the route, cheering and applauding. You should've seen the tears run down those old guys' faces.

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