The 1st May is a public holiday here in France. As well as being Labour Day ( la fête du travail), it is a day for celebrating family and friendship by giving a small posy of fragrant lily of the valley (un brin de muguet) to bring health and happiness for the year ahead.
The origins of this lovely tradition are said to date back to 1560, when a knight called Louis Girard presented King Charles IX with a bunch of these delicate blooms as a token of luck and prosperity for the coming year. The king was so enchanted by the gesture that he began presenting small posies of lily of the valley to ladies of the court on the same day each year. Courtiers adopted the custom, which eventually spread across the country.
The tradition is still very much alive today. Roadside stalls pop up everywhere, brimming with bunches of muguet for giving to friends, family and neighbours and these delicately-perfumed beauties are easy to grow in the garden, too. Here at Rue Vincent our own lily patch has increased happily from just a few bulbs to a swathe of bright green scrolls, dotted with nodding white bells, beneath the shade of one of our peach trees with very little effort on our part. Plenty for us and for gifting to spread a little happiness (porte le bonheur) . Time to get picking!
Bonne fête de muguet et du bonheur à tous!