‘Muguet Porte Bonheur!’ ‘Lilies of the Valley bring good luck!’ so shout the street sellers of this pretty scented flower. They are sold a little more quietly in the Carrefour but are no less lucky for that.
Flowers fit for a king
The celebration of spring around 1 May is as old as time itself but the tradition of giving lucky Muguet received a boost during the time of French Kings. Charles IX was given a bouquet ‘for luck’ on 1 May 1561. Charmed by the sentiment and no-doubt delighted by a fragrance fierce enough to combat early château drains, he began the custom of presenting Muguet to ladies of his court every 1 May.
The worker’s holiday
Now 1 May is the worker’s holiday ‘La Fête du Travail’ and this happy floral tradition continues. With a nice twist that individual and cooperative Muguet merchants do not have to pay any tax on the pretty perennial.
The day became a public holiday in celebration of a 1919 law limiting the French working day to 8 hours. By the 1930’s a tradition of 1 May demonstrations and parades for further worker’s rights was well established.
For the less political 1 May is a welcome break but with the usual closures; post offices, banks, many shops and businesses will not be open. If you need to take public transport check first for schedule changes.
In the language of flowers Lilly of the Valley means ‘return of happiness’. A lovely gift for those we love.