Bonne Fête du Muguet!

Every May 1st, the French celebrate a sweet national holiday, La Fête du Muguet, or La Fête du Travail. In this post we’re going to celebrate the upcoming first of May, the French way. With Lily of the Valley!

Lily of the Valley Cards

The 1st of May is a national holiday in France, it’s International Workers’ Day {like our Labor Day} but it’s also the day when French people give little bouquets or sprigs or pots of  lily of the valley {le muguet} to each other. It’s that sweet custom of offering loved ones and neighbors the floral gesture in celebration of spring that I find most endearing. This tradition is said to have begun during the the Renaissance in 1561, when Charles IX offered them to his subjects.

Antique Shepherdess with her darling Sheep

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!

En Mai, fais ce qu’il te plait!

Provençal proverb ~ In May, do what pleases you!

Lily of the Valley Jewelry

I love the lily of the valley flowers. They are known as a symbol of porte-bonheur or good luck, and happiness. They are so delicate, pure enchantment with their bright green leaves and their sweet little bell flowers, aren’t they?

Hand Painted Large Tole Tray with Lily of the Valley and Pansies

Flower shops 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 on the first of May.

I’m always thrilled to find antiques with the lily of the valley! Few and far in between, each one becomes the centerpiece of a lover of lily-of-the-valley’s home. This spring, I found a few pieces, but I believe few lily of the valley antiques are out there because collector’s are not willing to part with them.

Antique Silver Lily of the Valley Hand Vase

The French have quite a love for the little muguet de bois, as do I. Do you have a love for these tiny, sweetest flowers of May?


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6 thoughts on “Bonne Fête du Muguet!”

  1. Alice Genzlinger

    Good morning Lidy. Love the sheep with it shepherdess . Also love the featured lily of the valley. To me the violet also is one of those invasive flowers but much loved by me. The stories you share with us and how an entire nation took them as symbols of a day or occasion are so special.

  2. Good morning Alice! I agree, the violet is also such a sweet flower. I wish we could grow both of those in our garden, but they need a different climate. Wishing you a blessed day, dearest Alice! Xo

  3. Denise Carlson

    The tiny white bell flowers are one of my favorites of Spring, so dainty and fragrant! A small bouquet fills the room with it’s intoxicating fragrance what could be better after a long winter. Love this post, fun to learn about this little beauty and some of the customs surrounding it. The lily of the valley jewelry is perfect very feminine and beautiful! Thanks Lidy such a pleasure!

  4. I’m a few days late, but wish you a happy May. Lily of the Valley is such a delicate, pretty flower. I wish I could grown them here. My friend, Rita, who lives in West Virginia considers them invasive and pulls them out of her garden.

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