Friday, May 2, 2014

May Day Tradition

I don't remember seeing little flowers last year, but this year on May Day, people were seen selling little sprigs of flowers on streets. Buses and trains weren't working, offices were closed, but streets were full of tourists and restaurants were making good business. In the midst of it all, I'd see people holding these little flowers. I was wondering what tradition it was to give flowers on Labour Day.

This morning, I went to the regular guy to buy some vegetables. At check out, the lady at the counter gave me this familiar looking sprig with little white flowers. Aah! I asked her what it was and she said it's a May Day tradition.

Still not satisfied, I came home and looked up the internet and found some interesting story behind this lovely tradition.

"SHOPS are shut, buses are not running, and unions are marching for workers’ rights, as France marks the FĂȘte du Travail today. 

But, as well as work and workers, May 1 - which became a public holiday in France in 1947 - is associated with an older tradition. It is the FĂȘte du Muguet, when thousands of roadside stalls selling lily of the valley spring up. The flower only became associated with workers’ rights in the 20th century. 

Last year the French forked out €31.8m to buy a sprig of lily of the valley (“muguet”) as a token of affection for family and loved ones. 

The tradition of giving lily of the valley flowers on May 1 is said to have begun in 1560, when knight Louis Girard presented King Charles IX with a bunch of lily-of-the-valley flowers as a token of luck and prosperity for the coming year. 

It is said that he took a shine to the idea and began the custom of presenting lily-of-the-valley flowers to the ladies of his court each year on the same day. 

Growers, particularly in the Loire-Atlantique, where 80% of cultivated plants will come from this year, have said that the recent mild conditions mean a bumper crop."

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