Lily of the Valley on Labour Day

Posted by on May 1, 2013 in News | 0 comments

Lily of the Valley on Labour Day

In France, Labour Day – la Fête des travailleurs – is on May 1st. How does one celebrate Labour Day in France? Why by giving and receiving sprigs of Lily of the Valley of course, or even better, by offering chocolates decorated with this harbinger of spring.

Lily of the Valley has symbolised spring since the Middle Ages. King Charles IX , having received a sprig as a good luck charm on the first of May in 1561, decided to offer this delicate flower to the ladies of the Court on May 1 each year.

In Paris, at the beginning of the XXth Century, French couturiers started offering sprigs of Lily of the Valley to their petites mains (seamstresses) on Labour Day. But it was only in 1976 that Lily of the Valley became officially associated with Labour Day on May 1st. That year, a boutonnière of Lily of the Valley appeared in the lapels of demonstrators marching in celebration of this holiday celebrating labour, replacing the Wild Rose and red triangle that symbolised the division of a worker’s day into three equal parts: work, sleep and play.

Bien sûr, as it became the official symbol of Labour Day, rules and regulations governing the sale of these lovely sprigs were put in place – it is France after all. But that does not deter the French who last year spent 25,5 million Euros (appr. $34 million CAD) on sprigs (whole plants don’t count) of Lily of the Valley for May Day alone! We left France yesterday after a lovely sojourn in the Dordogne where ten lucky guests will join us in September at le Château de Poujade, and it was wonderful to see bouquets of Lily of the Valley on every street corner and in every shop window. Now if only mine could start blooming in the back garden!

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