Fête du travail & Muguet (Lily of the valley)
The Fête du travail is a day to campaign for and celebrate workers’ rights in France. The eight-hour working day was officially introduced on 23rd April 1919 and 1st May became a public holiday called Fête Internationale des Travailleurs (International Workers’ Day). During World War II, the Vichy regime renamed the holiday the Fête du Travail et de la Concorde sociale (Work and Social Unity Day). It officially became known as the Fête du Travail on 29th April 1948.
1st May, known as Labour Day in other parts of the world, is a bank holiday in France, with post offices, banks, stores and other businesses closed. Traditionally, individuals and labour organisations sell Lily of the Valley flowers on the street and people give these bouquets to loved ones. This custom is particularly common in the area around Paris. There are special regulations that allow people and some organisations to sell these flowers without paying tax or complying with retail regulations.
This tradition is believed to date back to King Charles IX, when he received with Lily of the Valley flowers on May 1st 1561. He appreciated the gift and decided to present Lily of the Valley flowers to the ladies of his court each year on this date. By the start of the twentieth century, men had started giving a bouquet of Lily of the Valley flowers to women to express their affection. The flowers are nowadays a more general token of appreciation between close friends and family members.