While it might not feel like it just yet, spring is right around the corner. Spring symbolizes many things – rebirth, growth, life – but mainly, it’s that time of year when we awaken from the cold and enter days of warmth and sunshine. Growing up in Northern Virginia, spring is a pretty magical time – not just because of the change in weather, but for the blooming of the Cherry Blossoms, which happens almost overnight.
Which brings me to The National Cherry Blossom Festival, also known as “the nation’s greatest springtime celebration.” The Festival starts today and lasts through April 14. Here are 5 things you might not have known about the history of the Cherry Blossom in America, and that I hope will inspire you to make the trip to DC this Spring:
1. The National Cherry Blossom Festival celebrates the 1912 gift of 3,020 cherry trees from the Mayor of Tokyo Japan to the city of Washington, DC. (The first gift of friendship from Tokyo to DC actually arrived in 1910 – but the batch of 2000 trees arrived diseased and had to be burnt upon arrival to DC. This obviously did not deter the parties involved.)
2. Over 12 varieties of cherry trees were included in the original gift to the U.S. The most common variety was the Somei Yoshino: 1,800 of the original gift of 3,020 are of this variety. The most rare is the Gyoiko – just 20 of these were sent, and they are all planted on the White House grounds.
3. In a small ceremony on March 27, 1912, First Lady Taft and Viscountess Chinda (wife of the Japanese ambassador) planted the first two trees together. Since First Lady Taft’s involvement, the nation’s first ladies have been advocates of the Festival.
4. Over the years, gifts have been exchanged between the U.S. and Japan. In 1915, the U.S. reciprocated with a gift of dogwood trees to the people of Japan. In 1965, the Japanese donated another 3,800 trees to Lady Bird Johnson and her beautification of Washington project.
5. Today’s National Cherry Blossom Festival has grown from very modest beginnings to “the nation’s greatest springtime celebration” – expanding from a ceremony on afternoon to a multi-week celebration attracting more than 1.5 million people to participate in the festivities.
So what are you waiting for? This year’s peak bloom date is estimated to be from April 3 – April 6. You can follow the Bloom Watch here. The Festival even has it’s own App, where you can find events, learn more info, and get tips on how to make the most of your visit to the Festival.