Happy May Day!

Lily of the valleyIt’s “la fête du travail” in France. In the US, we don’t celebrate Labor Day until September, but here it’s the first in a happy series of “jours fériés” throughout the month of May.

May 1st is a national holiday in most European countries, and there seems to be quite a lot of history surrounding May Day celebrations. If we go back far enough, Beltane, an ancient Gaelic festival, appears to be the oldest. It was (and still is) celebrated with bonfires and flowers. While we don’t light fires here in Paris, we certainly do honor flowers. The tradition in France is to give a stem of lily of the valley to your sweetheart. The story goes that King Charles IX (back in the 16th century) gave a stem of “muguet” to each of the ladies in his court on this day.

Today, lily of the valley is sold in the streets and, according to this article in the Figaro, the French spend over 25 million euros on it on May 1st alone. I read that each commune is responsible for setting its own rules surrounding the sale of this flower. As the article states, anyone can sell it, but in Paris, for example, you aren’t allowed to add other flowers to the bouquet. Additionally, only wild lily of the valley is allowed.

Since it’s a cool and cloudy day, we spent most of the morning indoors, photographing my bouquet of “muguet”.

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