May 1st in France: May Day, Labor day and the Fête du Muguets

May is the month that everyone looks forward to; it has the most public holidays (jours feriés) that can land before/after the weekend (hello 3-day weekend!). And May Day is the start of it all.

Today, May 1st, is known as May Day or Labor Day (Fête du Travail) here in France and normally street corners and entrances to metro stations would sprinkled with The Red Cross or street vendors selling little bundles of these delicate flowers. They bring good luck to whomever you give them to!

May Day/Labor day is a celebration and remembrance of workers’ rights. Originating from the May 1, 1886 strikes that took place in Chicago where American workers demanded an eight-hour work day. Several days later, a bomb went off in a crowd of protesters, killing some of them and since then, May 1st has been an international day of remembrance for those who stood up for their rights and died.

Here in France, most businesses will be closed on this day, but you may be lucky to find a few open. The day is also marked with protests and demonstrations that are organized by worker’s union  Be careful if you’re in/around town, be sure to double check public transportation for any closures or delays. 

The 1st of May is also known as La Fête du Muguet (Lily of the Valley Day) are given to loved ones on this day because way back in the 1560s, King Charles IX of France was given, as a gesture of good luck, a lily the valley. He was so touched by this move that he decided to present to all the ladies of his court every year their own little bouquet of lily of the valley as a sign of good luck and happiness.

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