One of my favorite French traditions is giving bouquets of Muguets (Lily of the Valley) to friends and family members for the 1st of May. I love its fragrance and their delicate bells-shaped white flowers accented against the tall green leaves make a beautiful display – indoors and out.
The Muguet, originally from Asia and Japan more precisely, has adapted to the climate of France since its arrival during the Middle Ages. It has long time been a symbol of renewal and Spring and, since Charles IX started the tradition of offering Muguets on May 1, as a token of “bonheur” or good luck.
Since 1936, it has also been associated with Labor Day, celebrated in France on May 1st. Long ago, when workers would demonstrate, they would wear a red triangle on their lapel as a symbol of the 3 divisions of time in a day: work, sleep and leasure. The triangle was replaced by the “églantine” rose and then by the Muguet.
For weeks leading up to the 1st of May, in France, in preparation of the holiday, you would easily find plants and bouquets sold in florist shops and on street corners… This year, remarkably for our New England weather, you’ll probably find them in your own yard! So have a look around, pick a few flowers and leaves and share them with your friends and family!