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Music, Dance and Festivals
In the Netherlands, December 5th is celebrated as Saint Nicholas Day, with fun activites, poems, games and special foods. Traditionally, Dutch families exchanged gifts on Saint Nicholas Day. Today, few Dutch Canadians celebrate this day. Many go to their nearest Dutch store to buy speculaas (an anise-flavoured chewy cookie), chocolate letters, and amandelkoek, a pastry filled with almond paste.
Many Dutch people really enjoy music because they grew up doing lots of singing with their families and in church. Especially in southern Ontario, there are many concerts of Dutch choirs or organ music throughout the year. Many Dutch immigrants play an instrument in brass bands of the Canadian Forces, because the Dutch historically enjoy marsmuziek (military music).
One old Dutch dance is the klompendans, which consists of people dancing in their wooden shoes. You might still see this done at a tulip festival or other special event.
The biggest tulip festival in the world is not in the Netherlands, but in Canada! It is held each May in Ottawa, with millions of tulips in bloom. The tulip bulbs come from the Netherlands, and are given to Canada as an expression of thanks for the Canadian soldiers who freed the Dutch in 1945. Ottawa was home to the Netherlands' Princess Juliana and her two daughters during the war; the third daughter, Margriet, was born here. Since that time, there has been a very special friendship between Canada and the Netherlands, which explains why the 60th anniversary of the Canadian Tulip Festival (2005) was called "A Celebration of Peace and Friendship." Right after the Canadians liberated the Netherlands, the first of millions of tulip bulbs were shipped to Canada. Ever since, gardeners in the National Capital have worked hard to create wonderful tulip beds for the festival each year. And every year, the Netherlands sends more than 20,000 bulbs to add to the incredible displays in Ottawa.