In France, as in other parts of the world, May 1 is synonymous with large demonstrations with labor demands. But in the European country there is also another tradition linked to the Celts, Carlos IX and the collaboration with Nazi Germany
Every May 1st, impromptu street vendors of lily of the valleyeither thrush. They are sold by twigs or in little pots, sometimes accompanied by a rose, and given as a gift to the women in their family or those around them.
In normal times, by May 1, 31% of the twigs sold in France are bought in a flower shop, 25% in supermarkets, 11% in markets, 9% in nurseries, 4% in farms and 20% elsewhere, especially on the street, according to Kantar.
The links between May Day and the lily of the valley go back to the old days. In ancient Rome, celebrations in honor of Flora, the goddess of flowers, had their heyday on the first day of May. The Celts celebrated the beginning of summer on that very day, dancing around a tree to ward off evil spirits, and believed that the lily of the valley brought luck.
In 1560, the French king Charles IX, visiting the Drôme region (south-east) with her mother, Catherine de Médicis, received the thrush from the gentleman Louis de Girard de Maisonforte, harvested from his garden in Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux. The king then decided to give the flower to the ladies of the court every year from May 1, 1561. It was there that the custom was born.
On May 1, 1895, the French singer Felix Mayol she arrived in Paris and her friend Jenny Cook gave her a bouquet of lily of the valley. She put the flower on her lapel at her first concert at the Concert Parisien hall. The concert series was a success, and Mayol made the thrush her emblem. Very popular at the time, the singer relaunched the tradition.
Also on May 1, 1900, during a party organized by great Parisian designers, all the women received a bouquet of flowers, and the designers began to offer flowers to their clients every year. Christian Dior he even made the thrush the emblem of his brand.
But the flower only became associated with Workers’ Day under the Vichy government, the regime that collaborated with Nazi Germany. On April 24, 1941, Marshal Pétain made May 1 official as the “Festival of Labor and Social Reconciliation.” The red rose, a symbol of Workers’ Day since 1891 and closely linked to the left, was then replaced by the less well-known thrush.
Originally Posted by RFI