Why the French offer Muget during Labour Day

LIGHTINGEvery 1st of may, Labour Day in France, bouquets of lily of the valley are exchanged on the streets. A tradition that dates back to the sixteenth century.

This tradition is about flowers. But not all flowers are good for the occasion, in fact only lilies of the valley are. That is why May Day is also known as the Fête du Muguet (meaning Lily of the Valley Day, of course) in France.

The lily of the valley becames indeed a lucky charm that is offered at this time of the year since King Charles IX. It is he, in 1561, who formalizes the tradition of offering each spring to the ladies of his court, after having received as a gift from the knight Louis de Girard de Maisonforte.

From then he continued the habit of offering lilies of the valley to all the ladies of the king as a sign of good luck and happiness starting what today is one of the most beautiful and syrupy customs in France!

The white bells of lily of the valey were associated with labour day during the goverment of vichy (1940-1944).

It is at this moment that May 1st became “Labor Day and social concord” and Marshal Petain then imposes lily of the valley to replace the wild rose “too proletarian, too red, too revolutionary”, summarizes Mathilde Larrere, a french historian.

Un brin de muguet dans la main d’un manifestant, le 1er mai 2016 (archives) Crédit : REMY GABALDA / AFP

It is also said that at that time there were sprig of muguets hanging in the doorways of the brides-to-be. Be that as it may, every year, as the month of May draws closer, French streets wear white as many flower stalls draped with bouquets of muguet bloom in every corner, where the blossoms wait to be bought to those loved ones.

The scent of flowers fills the air and everywhere you go you find people with smiles in their faces and white flowers in their hands. In fact according to the tradition- you must offer au moins un brin de muguet (“at least one sprig of lily of the valley”) in May Day. A hint of flowery white colour and an injection of happiness to light up your and your loved ones spring.

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