It is spring and the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington D.C. is in full bloom. The cherry trees in our country’s capital city are planted around the Tidal Basin where the Potomac River meets the shore of the city. The white and pink blossoms are in peak about the first of April depending on the weather.
“The Washington D.C. cherry blossom festival commemorates the gift of 3,000 cherry trees from Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo to the city of Washington D.C. in 1912. The gift and annual celebration honor the lasting friendship between the United States and Japan and the continued close relationship between the two countries.“ National Cherry Blossom Festival
Our capital’s Cherry Blossom Festival occurs in the middle of Japan’s cherry Blossom festival, which runs from mid March through early April as the blooms advance from the south to the north part of the country. In Japan, cherry blossoms are a symbol of spring and signify rebirth. The flowers are often found in Japanese art both for their beauty and symbolism. The blossoms appear in painting, ceramics, screens and kimonos.
According to the National Park Service, 12 varieties of cherry trees are now grown around the Tidal Basin. During the peak days for the blooms, the entire Tidal Basin becomes a pink cloud. Crowds line the walkways around the park and cameras capture the color. Just after the peak days, the blossoms fall and create a pink and white snowstorm. The grass and walkways turn into a crimson carpet.
In Japan, the trees are widely planted and viewing parties are popular throughout the country. In the United States as in Japan, the Cherry Blossom Festival is a popular time for families to picnic under the trees and admire the panoramic ocean of color. Sightseers sit on benches and blankets enjoying a pleasant afternoon while taking in the scene. Here is a picture of me next to a 17th century Japanese pagoda a gift of friendship from Mayor Ryozo Hiranuma of Yokohama, Japan, in 1958.
The sun was bright during our visit to the opening day of the Cherry Blossom Festival though the air was cold and windy. The crowds were bundled up in winter coats, gloves and mittens. The weather did not deter the sightseers and pedestrian traffic moved at Sunday stroll pace.
The Tidal Basin and West Potomac Park are favorite gathering spots for locals and visitors alike. While you view the cherry blossoms, take time to visit the other sites around the Tidal Basin.
- Jefferson Memorial
- John Paul Jones Memorial
- Frankin Delano Roosevelt Memorial
- (Future) Martin Luther King Memorial
Keep your ears tuned and your eyes peeled towards the skies. During our visit, we watched Marine One, the helicopter that transports the President of the United States, zoom across the Tidal Basin.
This year, the National Cherry Blossom Festival runs March 26 through April 10 2011. Peak date for the blooms is expected to be April 4.
We were looking forward to the Kite Festival originally scheduled for March 28. The event was postponed due to an early spring snowstorm and cold weather. It has been rescheduled for Sunday April 10.