Le 1er mai is an annual public holiday in France and many other countries around the world. However, in France, this date is more than just a day out of the office!

Back on 1 May 1560, King Charles IX of France was presented with lily of the valley (“muguet” in French) flowers as a lucky charm. The King appreciated the gift so much that he decided to gift the flowers to every lady of his court every year on 1 May. This gesture started to become more commonplace at the beginning of the 20th century with men presenting lily of the valley flowers to women to express their affection.

These days, it has become custom to give a sprig of these flowers as a token of appreciation to close friends and family members on 1er mai. For one day each year, the French government allows the tax-free sale of lily of the valley flowers on the street to promote this tradition and ensure its continuation.

The day also became a public holiday, formally known as La Fête du Travail (Labour Day), back in 1948. Since then, 1er mai has also been an opportunity for trade unions and to campaign for and celebrate workers’ rights and other social issues.

Finally, remember that nearly everything will be closed on 1st May so be sure to do your shopping the day before!

Click HERE to discover more French traditions.

May in France - Lily of the Valley