An ancient French tradition – Une vieille tradition Française

(In English below)

Cette tradition Française (et Belge je crois) remonte à la Renaissance: le 1er mai, il était d’usage, dans les campagnes, d’offrir une branche de quelque chose pour chasser la malédiction de l’hiver. En 1560, le roi Charles IX visita la Drôme où on lui offrit un brin de muguet. Le geste lui plut, et l’année suivante il en offrit aux dames de la Cour en guise de porte-bonheur.Charles IX( atelier de Jean CLouet) © E. Souffan

Il s’agit donc bien d’une coincidence si la fête du travail tombe le premier mai et si les deux sont associés…

On the French labor day (May 1st every year), you will see many people with little flower stands on the side of the roads, selling lilies of the valley… It is said to be a good luck charm and must be offered to all the ladies among your family and friends. They must have 13 bells and still be covered with dew to be considered truly lucky… 

It is indeed a very old French tradition (and Belgian too I think) dating back to the Renaissance: On May 1st, it was customary in the French country side to offer people a branch of something (anything really but mostly flowers) to chase the curse of winter. In 1560, King Charles IX visited the Drôme region where he was offered lilies of the valley. The gesture pleased him very much, and the following year, he gave lilies of the valley to all the ladies at Court as a good luck charm.

Today’s pictures were taken in my garden this morning. It is covered with them :0)

28 Comments Add yours

  1. Lovely tradition. I haven’t seen Lily of the Valley here for years. Wonder why?

    1. My French Heaven says:

      I think they need a really specific type of soil and climate…

  2. Karen says:

    I was in France one year on the 1st of May and was given Lily of the Valley…it is such a lovely tradition.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      You are right Karen. It really is 🙂 Thanks for dropping by!

  3. Interesting I never heard of this before!

  4. M.L. Behra says:

    Venez mes dames fleurissez-vous, achetez mon petit bouquets d’un sou, c’est du muguet, une jolie fleur quit vous portera bonheur……………..( my mother remembered this little song from the 20th, sung by the ” vendeuse de muguet” also if one would receive a little brin de muguet maybe from a beau, it was not to uncommon to press it between the pages of a book…………….

    1. My French Heaven says:

      This is really cool and all so romantic!

  5. Vinny Grette says:

    You’re bilingue! Just like a good Canadian might be :). I love these traditions. We just got back from Italy where I was presented with Mimosa blossoms one weekend, in a similar kind of festival. So nice!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      I just put what’s left of the lillies in the house in a vase. The whole place smells amazing… 🙂

  6. ladyredspecs says:

    Lily of the Valley makes me think of my softly spoken grandfather, a man who adored his garden and found it easier to relate to plants than people. We all revered the shady spot where is spring, the delicate lily of the valley appeared. They are a rarity in Australia and it was the family connection to their roots in England. That for sparking this precious memory with your beautiful photos, the scent must be amazing.

  7. adeptula says:

    I learned the hard way by going to the store to find out it was closed today. Many shops were close, too, so I suspected it was a holiday. I also saw people selling flowers just as you had mentioned on your post. I was wondering what that meant. Glad you shared this great information!

  8. I love the history. And a beautiful flower to give as a gift.

  9. juliabarrett says:

    Oh how nice! The part of my family that came from France had a huge garden full of Lilies of the Valley – They became my favorite flower. Growing up I never saw them in any other garden.

  10. Lucky you and your lilies. Buona Festa questa 1 Maggio.

  11. mredible says:

    Charming and beautiful, thank you.

  12. angica says:

    A wonderfull story! have a nice day…

  13. GreedyFrog says:

    J’ignorais l’origine de cette tradition, merci!

  14. Joyce says:

    Oh, how lovely. They don’t grow in my area but my mother-in-law loves them and one year I gave her some in a pot. She got to see them bud and took pictures. She was so excited.

  15. How beautiful; and this is one of my favourite flowers. Happy May Day, and may you have a wonderful spring!

  16. Merci; Je ne savais pas l’histoire derrière! Mais j’en ai reçu aujourd’hui 🙂 Beautiful Post again!

    1. benlegraphiste says:

      Je ne connaissais pas non plus l’histoire !!

      1. My French Heaven says:

        L’origine de toutes ces petites traditions me passionne…

        1. benlegraphiste says:

          C’est cool ça. En plus c’est instructif.

          1. My French Heaven says:


  17. londoncab53 says:

    Beautiful and what a sweet tradition!
    I wanted to share with you that for the first time since I planted two grape plants I finally have some fruit, I think! I am ecstatic because for the last 3 years when spring comes and it starts to leaf out I start watching for signs of fruit. Very disappointing when there is none. Today I looked and there are many little clusters that don’t look like the emerging leaves. Please God no crazy spring frosts! Happy May Day Stephane!

  18. Leilani says:

    What a delightful tidbit of information. Such sweet flowers!

  19. My mother’s back garden in America is covered in lilies of the valley too… This reminds me of home. Happy May!

  20. I never knew! Lilies of the Valley have always been a favorite of mine. Such a wonderful fragrance!!

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