Why the first of May will be your lucky day in France

First of May

Yesterday was May first, a public holiday in France, as in many other countries around the world. Mostly known as International Workers’ Day, it has an extra meaning in France. On this day, according to an age-old tradition, the French give a ‘muguet’, or lily of the valley, to the one they love. Ever since the Celts, this flower announces spring and brings luck.

Workers’ Day

Internationally, the first of May has been commemorated since the late 1800s as Workers’ Day, or May Day. On the 1st of May 1886, the American unions called out over 400,000 workers to protest for an eight-hour working day. This way the partition of the day would be fairer: eight hours of work, eight hours of sleep and eight hours of free time.

First of May


But what’s with the many lily of the valley stalls you see around these days? Well, it began during the Renaissance, when the celebration of love wasn’t on February 14, but and you can guess, May 1. It was customary for princes and lords to offer flower crowns to their beloved. King Charles IX of France also received flower crowns on this day, and one year it included lilies of the valley. He thought this was such a nice gesture that he wanted to repeat it every year. On the 1st of May 1561, to be precise, the King officially began to give a muguet to his ladies-in-waiting. And thus, a new tradition was born.

First of May

Happiness and good health

Nowadays, giving a lily of the valley to the one you love is still a thriving tradition in France. The receiver will have a year full of happiness and good health. It is also said that fate is extra favourable to the one who receives 13 flowers on the twig. Hence you will see many stalls around town, in villages and randomly along the way selling muguets. From a simple twig to complete bouquets including a touch of lily-of-the-valley. These ‘porte bonheur’ simply say that you wish the receiver all the best. So that’s the romantic side of the flower. However, please be careful with small children around the lily of the valley because everything on this sweet flower is very poisonous, even the water in the vase!

First of May
TO KNOW - French holidays
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