Tulip Sunday and Tulip mania

I’ve just been to Tulip Sunday, at the Wellington  Botanic Garden, in New Zealand. You will of course have spotted the Dutch connection between Zealand and Zeeland, and won’t be at all surprised to read that it was all very Dutch in the garden today…the Dutch Ambassador, children doing traditional dances, and stalls with Dutch goodies. Lots of people attended – it’s a very Wellington thing to get into events like this and Wellingtonians are generally guaranteed to be a good audience for whatever might be going on around town.

The Dutch Ambassador did point out that tulips weren’t originally Dutch, and that they are now grown very successfully in the South Island of New Zealand, but hey – we’ll give them their day anyway. The kids doing some traditional dances were sweet, although some were so tiny that they fell off their clogs a few times and had to be carried from the stage.

I was amused to notice that some of the tiny kids had felt clogs instead of wooden ones – must be a Dutch rite of passage thing, or perhaps just a safety call by parents.

Coincidentally, I’m also reading a book about Tulipmania, which is often identified as the first speculative economic bubble. There was a time, in the early seventeenth century, when tulips were immensely desirable, and a fast moving trade developed in the sale and purchase of the bulbs. They certainly did rise high in price, then drop suddenly, but according to my reading it wasn’t quite as insane as it is sometimes depicted.

What is interesting about it is the trading aspect – even then, humans were humans and traders were traders, and if they could find a way to make a fast buck off someone else’s desire, they took it. Whether that desire was the tulips of the seventeenth century, or the large homes of today, it’s the same old same old. Artificially inflated sums for things you want, that always ends in tears.

Apparently, when the tulip bubble burst, people were left owing money for tulips bulbs that were no longer worth what they had to pay for them…I’m sure that sounds familiar to anyone holding a mortgage for a devalued property, especially those poor sods in America who literally walk away from their over-valued then devalued properties.

Maybe we should have stuck to tulips as a form of investment…at least the burghers of the seventeenth century still had their homes, if not their bulbs.

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