One of the most charming customs the French have is to offer a petite porte-bonheur {bringer of happiness} – a bouquet of Lily of the Valley – to each other on May 1st. Such a sweet and perfect way to usher in the month of floral perfection, MAY!



I know it’s still a couple of days or so away, but I’m looking so forward to May and all it has to offer that I’m jumping in ahead of time! The 1st of May is a French holiday.  May Day was originally a joyous pagan holiday celebrating the promise of spring, now in France it’s actually their Labor Day. But it’s that sweet custom of offering loved ones and neighbors the floral gesture in celebration of spring that I find most endearing. It’s la Fête du Muguet!


A few days before the day, vendors pop up on every corner, selling  bouquets of Muguet de Bois, or Lily of the Valley.  Although selling any kind of flowers on the street in France always requires a permit – along with the endless European bureaucratic waiting, filling out forms etc. – for this special holiday, anyone, everywhere in France is exempted. No permits, no taxes required, just the pure joy of selling those adorable white flowers!



Muguet de bois are the most beautiful delicate looking flowers, they grow as a wild woodland plant throughout Europe. They were not really considered a garden plant until the mid 16th century. Since the Renaissance, they have been considered to bring good fortune or luck.


Each clochette shaped flower has the sweetest scent. Every florist shop in France offers both bouquets of the bell shaped wonders, as well as potted plants.  Often, shopkeepers will add a small token – un brin de muguet- to each regular customer’s order.  Beautifully boxed treats will leave the local patisserie with a ribbon and a petit bouquet of the flowers tucked under the bow.

Antique Hand Painted Muguet de Bois Porcelain Vase

I am always thrilled to find antique and vintage pieces for the shop at FrenchGardenHouse with these delicate lovely flowers.  After all, what is more à propos than celebrating the month of May, when every flower and tree is bursting into blossom and our gardener’s hearts are filled with the promise of our glorious gardens, than with the small and elegant Lily of the Valley?

Antiques and vintage textiles and porcelains, or silver, are not that easy to find with the delicate Lily of the Valley. I think it’s because, once anyone owns a treasure with these sweet blooms, they are loathe to let them go!

Vintage Swiss Handkerchief


Not just the symbol of May Day, the Lily of the Valley is known as May Lily and Our Lady’s Tears because folklore has it that the flowers grew from the tears shed by the Virgin Mary at the Cross. For centuries, muguet de bois was grown by monks to decorate their altar in chapel, they were also called Ladder to Heaven because the miniature flower bells grow like steps up from the stem.

Vintage Linen Muguet de Bois Tablecloth


Setting your table with a beautiful light pink and French bleu Linen tablecloth strewn with bouquets of muguet de bois to enjoy a tea time with your close friends would be one fun way to celebrate the beautiful month of May, wouldn’t it?

May is such a glorious month, filled with all the hope and wonder that spring can offer.


Don’t forget to leave a comment to be entered in the give away…just a few more days left!




See you next time!

31 thoughts on “LA FETE DU MUGUET”

  1. Indeed, friends will pop by with springs of muguet and wishes of happiness on May 1.
    Actually, May 1 is Labor Day almost everywhere. The U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand are exceptions.

    1. So fun, I can only imagine what a beautiful sentiment that is. Not to mention all the friends popping by!!

  2. Eileen

    I didn’t know about the lily of the valley. Thanks for the information. Count me in on the giveaway.

  3. Lidy, I always enjoy the history and lore behind the antiquities you present. That hankie is so lovely. I don’t really have any favorite floral customs to offer, but my heart smiles each time lilacs bloom, as I recall my mother so loving the lilac festival each spring in Rochester, NY, where she grew up. I planted one just for her memory.

    1. I love that memory, Rita. And your words “my heart smiles each time lilacs bloom” how you mother would love that it does! My heart smiles each time I smell roses, it was my mom’s favorite scent. It always makes my heart glad. xo

  4. Such a sweet little blossom and oh so fragrant! Twice I was lucky enough to be in France on May 1 and so enjoyed the festive atmosphere. The first time I was totally taken by surprise because it wasn’t a custom I was familiar with. Your wonderful post today brings back fond memories of trips to France with my sister … thank you!! I’ve never seen these for sale in a nursery here so I plan to order some plants today.

    1. Vicky, how lucky! I love these little dainty flowers too, they are so sweet, and yes, they smell so wonderful, don’t they? Your trip with your sister sounds divine, I’m sure you two had a memory making time there.

  5. Jethelyn Gregory

    I just planted some hand me down lily of the valley. Maybe someday I will have enough to give friends Muguet de Bois.

    1. I hope your hand-me-down {aren’t those the best?} lily of the valley thrives in your garden, Jethelyn!

  6. Happy upcoming May Day!….Lily of the Valley is near and dear to my heart as it was in my wedding bouquet!
    I can imagine the streets of France days before May Day….One of the things I loved most about France was their beautiful markets filled with the color of farm fresh produce and gorgeous flowers. Gorgeous Lily of the Valley items!!!

  7. Shirley, how wonderful to have Lily of the Valley in you wedding bouquet! I can only imagine how beautiful that was. Happy weekend, friend. We’ll be working in and enjoying the garden.

  8. I love this flower but didn’t know about la Fête du Muguet. Thanks for such an informative and delightful post!

  9. Ginger Valdes

    Those decorated pieces are heaven sent! Thanks for sharing the story of these flowers. I’d never heard of this, and such a sweet way to celebrate friendship, spring, and the beauty of life!

  10. Ginger, isn’t it? I love the whole custom, so sweet. And then there are the Lily of the Valley flowers, they are so special!

  11. Chris Roberts

    Love Lily of the valley , our neighbor use to have them in her yard . She has passed but when I see them , I think of dear Katie . My favorite flowers hydrangeas , roses and pansies . Of course as thing bloom I go along and say each one is my favorite . Spring and fall are my favorite time of year I really look forward to your blogs and now that I signed up for Instagram too thank you , you inspire me.

    1. That is such a wonderful memory of your neighbor Katie.

      Like you, I go along and say each flower is my favorite too – but the hydrangeas, roses and pansies are always at the top of that list!

  12. Lily of the Valley was my Mom’s favorite flower… in fact, my Dad had some inscribed on her headstone. It is a very precious tangible thing that brings back sweet memories of her and him.

    1. Oh, I love that Carol. Bittersweet, but sweet never the less!

  13. Chris Roberts

    Just looked out my kitchen window , my dogwood is blooming , also a favorite
    My husbands grandmother painted dogwood which I have framed , she painted it in 1911 . One of my favorites of her paintings . It also dated April 25 , which is my birthday

  14. We don’t grow Lilly of the Valley but our neighbor does and they share. What I notice about the plants is that they spread and will take over if you are careful. They have a wonderful perfume that fills the house. Love your post.

  15. Every time I pick little bouquets of the Lily of the Valley, I think of my husband’s grandmother, who was always very Special to me.

    What a lovely custom to give friends the Muguet de Bois bouquets. I love the porcelain Lily of the Valley Vase that you have displayed, and see that it sold.
    Have a lovely weekend Lidy XO

  16. Sharon Crigger-Stokan

    I love lilies of the valley and this beautiful little vase. I have a patch of them in my garden and would love this vase! I see that it is temporarily out of stock. Would you please let me know when you have them again? I believe you have my email. Or I could contact you? Thanks, Lidy!

  17. What a charming custom that I was unaware of. Thanks so much for the information. Such a warm and loving tradition.

  18. My favorite flower is Bells of Ireland. However, this beautiful sweet Lily of the Valley is also a favorite.

  19. I love this story about these wonderful little flowers and the charming May Day tradition. Wish I could buy these on a street corner!

  20. Gloria

    It was wonderful seeing the Muguet de Bois bouquets. I feel like you sent them in time for my recovery from periodontal surgery.

  21. Thank you for the story of the sweeet Lily of the Valley. I have a lovely bed of them in my back yard and will pick a bouquet of them for a dear friend and one for my bedside table as well.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top