The Cherry Blossom Festival
March 27, 2012 § Leave a comment
Everyone in Washington, D.C. looks forward to the annual National Cherry Blossom Festival every March and April. This year, the Festival celebrates the Centennial Anniversary of Japan’s gift of 3,000 cherry trees to the United States in 1912. Although the Festival officially began last Tuesday, it held its Opening Ceremony on March 25.
The Festival is a commemoration of the mutual friendship and amity between the United States and Japan following President Theodore Roosevelt’s help in negotiating an end to the Russo-Japanese War early in the 20th century.
On March 27, 1912, First Lady of the United States Helen Herron Taft and Viscountess Chinda, the wife of Japan ’s ambassador to the United States , planted the first of these beautiful trees in the tidal basin adjoining West Potomac Park. In 1915, the United States sent Japan a shipment of flowering Dogwood Trees as a mutual sign of friendship. The tradition of sharing continued in 1965, when First Lady Lady Bird Johnson accepted an additional 3,800 trees from Japan . Sixteen years later, the people of the United States sent saplings back to Japan following a devastating flood in the country that destroyed thousands of cherry blossoms.
The distinct pink blossoms, which are delicate and very sensitive to temperature and weather, are only in bloom for two weeks every year. The trees are considered to be in peak bloom when 70 percent of the blossoms have flowered. This year, peak bloom came early and occurred on March 20, nearly two weeks earlier than usual.
Today, over one million Americans travel to Washington, D.C. every year to behold the natural beauty of the Cherry Blossoms. This great gift from the people of Tokyo has become an unofficial celebration of the beginning of Spring. Their beauty is a wonder to behold and I would encourage all of you to visit Washington, D.C. in the Spring time to see them for yourselves.