May 1st in France: Labor Day and Mogues Day

May 1st in France: Labor Day and Mogues Day

Last updated on March 3, 2023 by Sophie Nadeau

From street vendors selling bell-shaped flowers to union marches across the country, here are some of the traditions happening in this country May 1 in France (which celebrates Labor Day and Labor Day on May 1)…

May 1, France

In many countries of the world, Labor Day is celebrated on May 1 annually, celebrating the achievements of workers.

May 1 is also known as “May Day” in many European cultures and is a traditional celebration in which spring is celebrated by dancers, columns, and ceremonies. Labor Day in France (work Birthday) It is a public holiday, which means many businesses are closed or operating at reduced hours.

Lily of the valley flowersLily of the valley flowers
Paris Goddess ShowParis Goddess Show

A brief history of Labor Day in France

A day of ancient tradition, Labor Day is usually marked as “jour ferié,” which means a day of paid vacation for many workers across the country. Only, this comes with a certain caveat!

You see, while in the UK workers are guaranteed to take the Monday closest to May 1, so as to form a long weekend, in France workers get a day off work on any day that falls on May 1. (Very bad luck if it's a Saturday or Sunday!)

As for what's open and what's not… well, there are usually very few stores operating! In Marseille, Lyon and many small French towns and cities there is no public transportation. In Paris, metro and bus services are operating at very limited capacity.

In addition to limited public transportation options, the majority of retail stores as well as restaurants are also closed. Regarding food stores, some are open, although they often operate with limited opening hours, even in Paris.

Union rallies are also commonly held on May 1 across the country. It should be noted that Labor Day is not actually celebrated on an international day every year, and in some countries it is actually celebrated on September 1st instead of May 1st.

Gods of ParisGods of Paris

Muguet (lily of the valley) Labor Day in France

Labor Day is a long-standing celebration of spring, celebrated in many European countries with county fairs, dance ceremonies and beautiful wreaths. In the United Kingdom, there is also a Maypole dancing tradition on May Day, where folk dances are held around the Maypole.

France celebrates Labor Day a little differently than its neighbor across the Channel. You see, one of the most beautiful traditions held on May 1st is the gifting of lily-of-the-valley flowers, which are known as “muguet” in French.

On this day, flower sellers around Lexagon sell these delicate bell-shaped flowers, as do street vendors. Although you are usually not allowed to deliver flowers from the street side without a license (Or without taxes!)On May 1, these rules were relaxed, meaning anyone can sell lily of the valley plants.

Of course, there are still some rules that must be adhered to; For example, you cannot sell your flowers within 40 meters of a florist, and you cannot sell anything but lily of the valley!

It is customary to buy these sweet flowers and gift them to those you love (either on a romantic or platonic level) and the gift of a mug denotes friendship, celebration of spring and good luck. In addition to lily of the valley plants, other gifts could be sprigs of the plant or a bouquet of lily of the valley flowers.

Delicious Lily of the Value themed chocolates also appear in most chocolate shops this time of year. So, if you prefer to give your loved ones a sweet surprise, many confectionery shops sell chocolate in the form of muguet.

Muguet chocolateMuguet chocolate

Where did the gift of lily of the valley come from?

As with many ancient traditions, no one can be completely sure where this custom came from, although of course there are plenty of theories. Lily of the valley has been present in folklore throughout the centuries, and it is very likely that the Celts gifted the sweet-smelling flowers to each other.

However, it is very likely that the tradition of gifting muguet in France most likely emerged as early as 1561, when King Charles IX was gifted a sprig of lily of the valley on May 1. In turn, he decided to give each lady of the court a branch of a flower in the shape of a bell, and thus the tradition began.

Thus, for the past five centuries or so, the gifting of a lily of the valley has been common in France every year on May 1. More recently, workers in Labor Day parades have worn lily-of-the-valley sprigs on their Labor Day jacket lapels.

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May 1st in France: Labor Day and Mogues DayMay 1st in France: Labor Day and Mogues Day

Sophie Nadeau He loves dogs, books, travel, pizza, and history. A Francophile at heart, she runs Solosophie.com when she's not chasing the next sunset shot or consuming something sweet. She divides her time between Paris and London and travels as much as she can! Subscribe to Sophie's YouTube channel.

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