A Long Standing Tradition: Washington DC’s Cherry Blossom Festival

Several years ago, I happened to be in DC for the Cherry Blossom Festival (by complete chance, too!) – a spring festival spanning several weeks commemorating the gift of 3000 cherry blossoms to the US from Japan.  These trees were planted around the Tidal Basin in West Potomac Park starting in 1912.

Cherry Blossoms surrounding the Tidal Basin, with the Washington Monument in the background, c. 1920.

Cherry Blossoms surrounding the Tidal Basin, with the Washington Monument in the background, c. 1920.

This annual celebration honors the friendship between the two countries.   The celebration was postponed after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 until 1947.  Four trees were cut down by DC citizens on December 11, 1941, and to curb any other attacks on the trees, the city of DC changed the names of the trees to ‘Oriental’ flowering cherry trees for the duration of the war.

Cherry blossom trees by the Tidal Basin, 2009.

Cherry blossom trees by the Tidal Basin, 2009.

 

Cherry Grove on the Mall near the Tidal Basin

Cherry Grove on the Mall near the Tidal Basin

 

The Library of Congress has some fascinating photographs from the 1941 celebration, showing carefree U.S. citizens prior to the war.  Enjoy!

Woman reading a newspaper in the grove, 1941

Woman reading a newspaper in the grove, 1941

 

cherry blossoms 4

Many got their photos taken with the flowering trees.

Many got their photos taken with the flowering trees, like the couples in the photograph below.

 

cherry blossoms2

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Filed under 1920s, 1940s, Photograph

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