Sunday, 1 May 2011

1st May: La Fête du Muguet (Lilly of the Valley), France

J’adore les Fêtes de France – regional and national. Today, is La Fête du Muguet. Across France people are giving bouquets of lily-of-the-valley or dog-rose flowers as lucky charms to members of their family or close friends, as a sign of their affection.

This tradition was started on the first of May in 1561, when King Charles IX of France was presented with flowers of lily-of-the-valley. The king was so taken by this gift that he then gave the ladies of his court lily-of-the-valley as a good luck charm on I May, thus creating this French custom. The significance of presenting a bouquet of these flowers was broadened at the turn of the 20-century, when men commenced to use the giving of lily-of-the-valley as a symbol of their affection for a woman. 

On the first day in May, there is a proliferation of street vendors selling sprigs of lily-of-the-valley as the French government allows the sale of these flowers without the imposition of sales tax or retail regulations. 

Since 1936, 1 May is Labour Day  (La Fête du Travail), which is a public holiday in France. This co-incidence with the La Fête du Muguet means that bouquets of lily-of-the-valley have also become a French symbol for Labour Day.
La Fête du Muguet is a reminder of the delight of thoughtful gestures. 

"Just living is not enough…..One must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower."Hans Christian Anderson

Note: I haven't any photos of lily- of-the-valley or dog-roses!