The role of the lovely plant of muguet-des-bois in France

On the Place de la Concorde yesterday, I spied this fashionable young woman carrying a small bouquet of lily-of-the-valley.

The little white spring flowers are everywhere in the city just now.

Why, you might ask, is it so popular now?

Well, it turns out it has a long and very charming history in French culture.

I found this on a Facebook page and thought it was lovely so I’m reprinting it here:

Le Muguet de France🪴

🌺Muguet – a May Day Tradition Dating Back to 1561
The 1st of May in France is a holiday to celebrate labour day, (fête de travail) and it also carries an even older tradition. If someone offers you a sprig of lily-of-the-valley, accept it graciously, for it supposedly brings good luck. But where did this custom come from?

🌻Offering a little muguet in spring was common in mediaeval times, but it seems that it became officialised on May 1st, 1561 when King Charles IX, having received a sprig himself, decided to return the gesture and offers the flower to every lady in his court.

💐From then on, the charming tradition continued and in more recent history became linked to the worker’s rights movement after demonstrators wore muguet on their lapels during their marches.

🪴Today families all around France get up early in the morning and go into the woods to pick the flowers and offer the little bouquets to loved ones and friends.

🌻According to Le Figaro, over 60 million brins de muguet are sold in France every year, representing an official market of around €24 million, and taking into account street vendors the unofficial figure is four times as high.

🌹Charities and labour organisations are allowed to sell bouquets of lily of the valley, tax-free, on the street on May 1, as long as they respect certain regulations, such as maintaining a minimum distance of at least 40 meters from the nearest florist and refraining from adding flowers of any other kind to their offerings.

🌺It is also said that at that time there were sprig of muguets hanging in the doorways of the brides-to-be. Be that as it may, every year, as the month of May draws closer, French streets wear white as many flower stalls draped with bouquets of muguet bloom in every corner, where the blossoms wait to be bought to those loved ones.

🌸The scent of flowers fills the air and everywhere you go you find people with smiles in their faces and white flowers in their hands. In fact -according to the tradition- you must offer au moins un brin de muguet (“at least one sprig of lily of the valley”) in May Day.

faire la grasse matinée = “to do the fat morning” (to sleep in); un porte-bonheur (m) = lucky charm;
vendeur, vendeuse de muguet = lily of the valley seller; Le muguet du premier mai! = The First of May’s Lily of the Valley
lys des vallées = lily of the valley, la clochette (f) = bell; commerçant(e) (adj) = businesslike; commerçant(e) (mf) = shopkeepers;
Ah, bon? = oh, really?; étonné(e) = puzzled; le muguet des bois (m) = “lily of the woods” (woodruff);
un petit brin (m) = “a little blade” (a little bouquet); coo-toom (pronunciation for ‘coutume’ (f) = custom
Source: French Entrée

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