Tulpendag! A Day of Free Tulips in Amsterdam


Tulpendag! A Day of Free Tulips in Amsterdam

January 17, 2010
Photo by: Lianca Ruiter. Tulpendag 2012, Dam Square, Amsterdam

During the 17th-century economic bubble known as "tulip mania," tulips were an unparalleled symbol of luxury, and they fetched a pretty (and speculative) penny. European audiences found the tulip's saturated colors to be exotic, wonderful, and worth the cost of a posh Amsterdam flat on the canal. The tulip frenzy would crash of course, but today, after a recovery period of several centuries and the introduction of new floral species to temper the tulip's allure, the flower has settled into a comfortable spot: still cherished, but a lot less expensive. Sometimes, they're even free. 

On Saturday, January 19th, they will be. Tulip growers and promoters will fill Amsterdam's Dam Square with thousands of tulips, free for the picking, to inaugurate Tulpendag (Tulip Day), the official start of the tulip season and to remind consumers that "the tulips are on the shelves again." Tulip season usually runs from January through late April, when most varieties are displayed at florists and flower stands. 

Last year, for the first Tulip Day, which was officiated by Eberhard van der Laan, the mayor of Amsterdam, growers installed 200,000 tulips in Dam Square. The picking garden, in the shape of a giant tulip, measured about 2,500 square meters, and attracted just over 10,000 people. It's a day to celebrate a beloved national treasure—the tulip, a commodity that is as Dutch as, well, herrings, according to the Flower Council, who compare Tulpendag to "when the first container of herring is opened, [signaling] the beginning of the herring season" (which, incidentally, is in June).

This year's garden will be open from early afternoon through evening. Tulip enthusiasts are encouraged to join in a sing-a-long of the classic Dutch song "Tulpen uit Amsterdam" ("Tulips from Amsterdam"). Lyrics will be dispersed, and one can hope for accordion accompaniment, in Dutch tradition. For those of you who cannot make it, the lyrics celebrate tulips, love, Amsterdam, and, as one would hope, windmills: "When it's Spring again I'll bring again / Tulips from Amsterdam / With a heart thats true I'll give to you / Tulips from Amsterdam / Like the windmill keeps on turning / That's how my heart keeps on yearning / For the day I know we can share these / Tulips from Amsterdam." 

Tulpendag 2012, Dam Square, Amsterdam. Photo credit: Lianca Ruiter.

Tulpendag 2012, Dam Square, Amsterdam. Photo credit: Lianca Ruiter.

Tulips in Holland. Photo credit: Dirk Huijssoon / Flickr.

A tulip field in Elsbroek, Hillegom, ZH, Netherlands. Photo credit: Felix 63 / Flickr.

A tulip field in Holland, Netherlands. Photo credit: Larry Myhre / Flickr

A portrait of Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh, Amsterdam. Photo credit: Upendra Kanda / Flickr