AMSTERDAM (AP) — As stores in Amsterdam and across the Netherlands cautiously reopened after weeks of being under a coronavirus lockdown, the Dutch capital's mood was lightened further Saturday by dashes of color from thousands of free bunches of tulips being handed out.

National Tulip Day is usually marked by an improvised flower garden in front of the royal palace on the capital's central Dam Square. But with pandemic lockdown measures continuing to restrict large public gatherings, organizers this year took to Amsterdam's World Heritage-listed canals to hand out their flowers.

The event is held each year to celebrate the start of the growing season for the iconic flowers, a major export for Dutch farmers.

“It is a gloomy and uncertain time for many people with the ongoing pandemic," Arjan Smit, chairman of Tulip Promotion Netherlands, an association of hundreds of Dutch growers. "So we’re going to provide some joy. We hope to create many happy faces by handing out tulip bouquets.”

Dutch flower and plant auctioneer Royal FloraHolland had record sales in 2021 of 5.6 billion euros ($6.4 billlion) thanks to higher prices for plants and cut flowers.


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