1st of May & The Sweet Smell of Muguet

In Belgium, France and Switzerland, there is a lovely tradition of giving sprigs of lily of the valley to one’s relatives and friends on the 1st of May to wish them happiness and good luck. The muguet or lily of the valley originated in Japan but has been known and cultivated in Europe since the Middle Ages. The perennial plant is a symbol of renewal for it blooms in mid-spring. The flowers are white, bell-shaped and sweetly scented.  If you’re in Paris, Brussels or Geneva on May 1st, you’ll note that most of the florists are selling lilies of the valley with a rose.

In 1936, the flower became associated with the Fête du Travail – Labour Day. The 1st May was adopted as the Fête du Travail et des Travailleurs in 1889 at an international congress in Paris in memory of those who had died demonstrating for an eight-hour working day in the Chicago riots. May 1st is a Holiday. Offices, banks, post offices and stores are closed. Museums, restaurants and tourist shops stay open.

Every year my sister offers me lilies of the valley. If I am in Belgium, she presents them in person. If I am not, she sends me a card. I received one today. She did not forget. Thank you sweet sister…..

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