On May 1st, if you’re in Paris, or anywhere in France, you’re sure to notice people selling ‘lily of the valley’ (muguet in french) at every metro station and street corner. The country’s florists also go all-out, making beautiful creations with ‘lily of the valley’ as the centerpiece. So what’s this ‘lily of the valley’ thing all about?
In France, it’s a longstanding tradition to offer a sprig of muguet to women and girls on the first of May, since the flower is believed to bring ‘good luck’ (a porte-bonheur). The tradition dates back to 1560, when Charles IX was given muguet to put in his button-hole for luck. From then on, he offered a sprig to every woman in his court.
It wasn’t until the beginning of the 20th century, however, that muguet became linked with the ‘Fete du travail’ (Labour Day in France). On this day only, as a symbol of spring, people were given the right to sell the flower without paying sales tax, causing the tradition to spread quickly and become quite popular.