May 1st is known as Labor Day (or the “Fête du Travail”) in France, as well as many other countries around the world, and many union organizations rally on that day in favor of workers rights. But aside from May 1st being a national holiday in France, there is another connotation to May 1st called Lily of the Valley Day (or “Fête du Muguet”).
Since the beginning of the 20th century, it has become tradition in France to sell these lovely bell-shaped white flowers on Labor Day. They are in full bloom this time of year, representing the start of Spring. And what a lovely scent they have!
Lily of the Valley is known as a good luck charm, and sometimes a mark of friendship, for the recipient. It can be given to friends, loved ones, people who work for you or people you work for. In other words, this charming gesture is offered in many contexts and without restraint. And it truly is. On Fête du Muguet, you will find vendors on nearly every street corner throughout France, so the flowers are very easy to find. Both organizations and private persons are permitted to sell them without paying sales tax, on this day only, and without an official permit. One can buy just one or two sprigs, or even purchase them with a rose or as a plant.
Charles IX was the first to start the Muguet tradition in the 16th century. If you know about French history, he was not a popular king and this flower certainly did not bring him good luck! On May 1st, enjoy offering of Lily of the Valley to those you care about as a good luck charm (or “porte bonheur”). Pick up a few sprigs and spread the cheer, while enjoying this lovely French tradition.