How sweet is this?

If it’s Friday, it must be France …

May 1st is celebrated in many different ways around the world. France has a particularly sweet custom and my friend,  book reviewer and blogger Claire McAlpine, wrote a lovely post about that very topic. I’m happy to share it with you today.

Au mois de mai, fais ce qu’il te plait.

In the month of May do what your heart fancies.

Provencal proverb

So today I feel like sharing a little bit of French culture with you, the 1st of May is a public holiday in France for the Fête du Travail and the day you will find people offering Le Muguet (Lily of the Valley) to their friends, neighbours and acquaintances, a tradition that began during the Renaissance in 1561, when Charles IX offered them to his subjects as a symbol of porte-bonheur or good luck.

Now associated with the Fête du Travail on 1 May, anyone can sell the flower on the street without requiring a licence or permission. Today I walked into the centre-ville and came across many people who are spending their day, sharing the magic of Le Muguet with the public.

The first year I came to live in France, I learned of the tradition when my next door neighbour knocked on the door and presented me with this delightful flower, explaining its significance.

Six months into adapting to this life, language and culture, it was a welcome gesture and reminded me how important it is to reach out to others, even if they appear to be coping, we can all do with a little ‘porte-bonheur’ from time to time.

Claire was a special guest on my blog a few weeks ago. If you haven’t had time to visit her wonderful Word By Word  blog, I hope you find the time soon. You’ll be glad you did!

Isn’t that a lovely custom? Lily Of The Valley is one of my favourite flowers and something I eagerly anticipated discovering in bloom in my garden when I lived in the country. I would pick a sizeable bouquet and deeply inhale the intoxicating perfume. It was such a harbinger of spring!

This year I spent May 1st, like every other day right now (except for Tuesday when I golfed  – YES! I took a day off and it was heaven!)  at the computer madly attempting to get closer to the end of my WIP … I’m SO close I can almost touch it. How did you spend the day? Does your community celebrate in any special way?

About Patricia Sands

Family, writing and travel are my passions ... okay, and chocolate ... and I'm seldom without a camera. I write women's fiction and keep in touch with readers by a monthly newsletter that also has giveaways and contests. Come and join us by signing up on the right. See you there!


  1. I have always wanted to grow lily of the valley. Maybe this year I will buy some and plant them with your new custom in mind!

  2. I LOVE the fragrance of lily-of-the-valley. So do the French, apparently. They have perfumes that smell a lot like it. Diorissimo, for example??

  3. ontheplumtree says:

    Lily of the Valley is one of my favourite flowers. My mother told me that it hates being uprooted and re-planted. She was Irish, maybe this is a local folk-tale from there. I have never managed to grow it. Maybe because I have moved too many times.

    • The only time I had success transplanting LOTV was when I dug up very large patches. Once it gets established it can go crazy, which is great. The more the better!

  4. I have a huge patch of lily of the valley at the house I rent to my daughter and a smaller patch where I live. I love the fragrance and the pretty little flowers. May Day is May 1st here and when i was in a Catholic elementary school, we celebrated with a parade and laid flowers at the feet of a statue of the Virgin Mary. It seems there was a song we sang, too, but it’s been way too many years to remember. it was a holiday that was close to my heart as a young person. I loved the ceremony of it all. I think France’s tradition is very sweet, too!

  5. That is by far the sweetest tradition I’ve read about in a long time. To be honest, I never knew what Lily of the Valley looked like, but now I’m smitten. I wonder if it will grow in my clay/sand temperate backyard. I’ll have to give it a try and find out.

    • I’ve always thought of them as a northern plant but you can give it a try. They are shade loving and if they settle in can spread like crazy, so put them where they will have lots of room to bring you joy!

  6. That is very sweet.

  7. Beautiful tradition. I love it!

  8. Wendy Sebbens. says:

    What a lovely tradition for the 1st of May! How ironic that my headpiece for my Bridal Veil almost 50years ago was Lily of the Valley (14th May, 1966) I didn’t know anything about the tradition back then or the charm. It must have brought me good luck as I had my wonderful husband for 40 of of those years. Sadly I will have to celebrate the 50 without him. However, I have been fortunate to travel to France twice in the last 10 years with my son and have just loved it. That is also why have enjoyed your books so much, I feel like I can see the country side as I am reading.
    Looking forward to the third one! Wendy – Australia.

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