Tuesday, May 1, 2012

May 1 - Lilies and Labor

Odd combination that it may appear, it is even odder (to me) in practice.  Today was my first May 1 in France.  It was a public holiday - May Day: La Fête du Muguet, La Fête du Travail.  It is a day to campaign for and celebrate workers rights.  It is also an occasion to present lily-of-the-valley or dog rose flowers to friends and loved ones.
The two have nothing to do with each other (as far as I can tell), but because it was a perfectly gorgeous day, and because of the upcoming Presidential Election here next Sunday, May 6, it was the perfect storm of manifestations (political marches), large public speeches by the candidates (as well as the candidates who didn't even make the cut after the first round), and the gifts of a sprig of lily-of-the-valley, which seemed to be carried around by everyone.

The story goes as follows:  King Charles IX of France was presented with lily-of-the-valley flowers on May 1, 1561. He liked the gift and decided to present lily-of-the-valley flowers to the ladies of his court each year on May 1. Around 1900, men started to present a bouquet to women to express their affection. The flowers are given between close friends and family members these days.

Some images of my May 1 in Paris:

 A little street music.
 A little afternoon wine to watch the march go by.
 Street sales of the flowers, which are permitted without license on only May 1.
 Posters for Presidential candidates and their "meetings" (use of the English word to describe rallies).
 Certain political leanings are manifested through the use of strategic vandalism.
Full evidence of spring, neither requiring the buckets of lily-of-the-valley or political speeches or parades.  But in Paris, on May 1, they all happen together.


  1. it was my 1st May 1 in Paris too
    what a gorgeous day!

  2. What a wonderful memory is springtime in Paris.