Sunday, May 5, 2013

1 May - la fête du muguet

May first is a national holiday symbolized by the muguet or Lilies of the Valley worn on nearly everyone's lapel.

This lovely flower has been present in Europe since the Middle Ages and has always symbolized spring. In 1561, King Charles IX received a Lily of the Valley as a lucky charm. He decided to offer it to the ladies of the Court and thus a tradition was born where the Lily of the Valley became the flower of dating and courtship.

Then on the first of May 1886, in Chicago, a protest movement was held demanding the 8-hour work day. This was promoted by the American Labor Unions resulting in a strike of 400,000 factory workers which crippled factory production. After four days of protests a bomb was thrown at police and numerous deaths resulted. Over the years the first of May gradually gained ground as the appointed day for workers to strike. So, fast forward to 2013 in France where it is celebrated as the french Labor Day. The muguet still signifies spring and courtship but also represents the rights of workers.

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