Today is May first, a public holiday in France. As in many other countries around the world. Also known as International Workers’ Day, or May Day, the first of May has been commemorated since the late 1800s. On the 1st of May 1886, the American unions called out over 400,000 workers to protest for the eight-hour working day. This way the partition of the day would be fairer: 8 hours of work, 8 hours of sleep and 8 hours of free time.
In France, it is also an age-old tradition to give a “muguet”, or lily-of-the-valley, to the one you love on the first of May. Ever since the Celts, this flower announces spring and brings luck. Since the Renaissance, on the 1st of May 1561 to be precise, King Charles IX of France officially began to give a muguet to his ladies-in-waiting. On this same day, he himself was also given a muguet as a good-luck charm. He thought this was such a nice gesture that he wanted to repeat it every year. And thus a new tradition was born.
Happiness and good health
Nowadays, giving a lily-of-the-valley to the one you love is still a thriving tradition in the whole of 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 towns and villages selling muguets. From a simple twig to complete bouquets including 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 lily-of-the-valley because everything on this sweet flower is very poisonous, even the water in the vase!