Friday, May 1, 2009


The first of May kicks off a host of holidays during the month. La Fête du Travail (or Labor Day to us) celebrates the worker. However, May Day is also known around here as La Fête du Muguet (meaning the Festival of the Lily of the Valley).

Not knowing much about this holiday, I was surprised to find a sea of tables lining up on every sidewalk with individuals selling muguets, pronounced moo-gay. I learned later that as an incentive, the government doesn't tax this single flower on May Day, making it easier for people to sell. So, be prepared to see a plethora of vendors trying to hawk these delightfully happy blossoms. You can expect to pay anywhere from about 1-5 euros or so—and cash only, s'il vous plait.

One might wonder what the significance of the ubiquitous white bell-shaped flower is for the French. For one thing, it symbolizes springtime, sweetness and a return to happiness. Well, that all sounds good to me. It also has historical roots. It was in 1561, when King Charles IX received some muguets as a good luck charm. Apparently, his royal highness was pleased with the results and decided these earthly delights were indeed fortuitous. From that moment on, the ladies at court were presented with these sweet-scented bouquets every May Day.

While the nobility may be long gone, the nearly six hundred year old tradition lives on—and ladies, expect to give a kiss to the person that gives you some muguets. As I have written on many occasions, the French adore their public displays of affection. So, just go with the flow and pucker up.

Keep in mind that since this is a day celebrating the worker, most workers have the day off. That means that grocery stores, museums and most of the good stuff will be closed. Unless you wish to dine out, plan ahead so that you will have enough food on stock in the fridge. If you are prepared, you can then pack a lunch and hang out at one of the parks. Remember, today is not about working. It is about relaxing and enjoying the beautiful spring day—and don't forget your muguets!

Thank you for reading and bonne journée!