Les Muguets and Le Fête du Travail

(Don’t worry, translation will follow…)

We’ve had an old friend staying with us for a few days – some of my (very) old friends who glance at this blog from time to time will no doubt recognise the name JP.  JP is French, he lives in Nice and drove up to see us.  We wore him out – despite the torrential rain that’s been falling all week, we did lots of walking and touristy stuff with him.  He left this morning to go home and sleep.

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JP enjoying the ochre cliffs at Roussillon

Today is May 1st – Le Fête du Travail – I suppose you’d translate it as “Labour Day.”  It’s a public holiday all over Europe, greatly associated with unions and the good they have done over the years, and there are parades and marches in most big cities to mark the occasion.

I already knew about May Day/Labour Day because it is a holiday in Ireland, but today, I learned about Muguets.  It all started back in the 16th century when King Charles XI was given a bouquet of muguets and was told it was a “Porte Bonheur” – a bringer of good luck.  The following year, he decreed that all the ladies of the court should be given muguets… to bring good luck to them and, by association, their menfolk I guess!  The tradition has lasted throughout the centuries and is still observed, with French men presenting muguets to all the women in their lives on this day.   Muguets are produced in vast quantities for the occasion in a city called Nantes, where, by a strange twist of coincidence, The ED spent an unhappy three-months on a college exchange.  I bet she never heard of muguets while she was there.

Yesterday we dropped into a super-market for a few essentials (no, wine was not one of them) and I wondered why everyone was buying little sprigs of Lily-of-the-Valley.  This morning, JP surprised me with this :

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Ever the gentleman (like most Frenchmen, it must be said) he spotted that the LSH didn’t know about Les Muguets so, when he went out for his morning cigarette, he popped into the flower-seller next door and bought me my very first muguets.

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Thanks JP!

(information about the origin of the muguet tradition from  these clever people)

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8 thoughts on “Les Muguets and Le Fête du Travail

  1. I love the tradition of “Muguets” being given on May 1, the “Fête du Travail.” Here in the US, “Muguets” are known as Lily of the Valley. I like the tradition of common folks selling the “Muguets” on the street corner on May 1. We saw lots of sellers around Montpellier when we went over to see our cousins on Labor Day a year ago.

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    • Yeah, I forgot to mention that – JP told me about how there are people selling muguets on every corner in the cities and how it is the one day in the year where it’s allowed

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