May 1st


May 1st is a public holiday in France,comparable to Labor Day in the U.S. You’ll also see Lilies-of-the-valley being sold throughout France. You give this bouquet of flowers to friends to bring them good luck. When we first came to France to our first home in Normandy back in 1989, our friend, Angelique met us at the airport with a bouquet of lilies-of-the-valley. I was surprised to learn at the Alliance Francaise site of Vancouver that May 1st is a relatively ‘new’ hoiday, starting in 1941. My first guess would have been a rapport with Russian’s May 1st celebration – but according to the Alliance Francaise site, the origins of this holiday go back to Chicago when, on May 1st, in 1886 the Chicago labor unions protested, wanting to cut the work day back to 8 hours. Mama Lisa’s World Blog adds to this that the May 1st date also was a memorial to protesters who were killed in the Chicago Haymarket riots of 1886.

But why should the lily of the valley be considered lucky under such circumstances? According to alchemy-works.com, the lily of the valley is traditionally planted on the grave of someone blamed for a crime he or she didn’t commit. The flower protects the grave from evil spirits. Be sure to check out this site for more info about the lily of the valley and other flowers!

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If you arrive in France on May 1st, you’ll notice that all the banks and public buildings will be closed. Paris may look somewhat deserted except for other tourists because many of the Parisians will have left town for a long weekend (beginning this past Friday). Those that have decided to stay in town might decide to go to the Foire de Paris which began last Friday and will end on May 8th.

If you’ve never gone to the Foire de Paris (the Paris Fair) you might consider going.
The fair includes several large buildings devoted to various themes which include home furnishings, food and wine from the various regions of France, an international building featuring craftsmen and handiwork from various countries. I’ve been told that used cars are sold as well. The grounds are so vast and varied, the best thing to do is visit the Foire de Paris site in advance and decide what topic most interests you, head to that building. Otherwise you could wander for days through the various displays. The home furnishings wing would be helpful to anyone who may be living in France, and looking for ideas whereas if you’re just visiting France, you’ll enjoy the food and wine building (you may want to take home a regional product to try out in your hotel room). Unfortunately most of the wines are not sold on location. Normally, one places an order for wines if you are living in France, and the wine is delivered to your domicile. Therefore, don’t be too disappointed if you cannot buy a wine on location.


2 thoughts on “May 1st

  • parisgirl

    Right. That’s what I understood from the linked history. Because May 1st isn’t a national holiday in the US, I had assumed for many years that holiday must have had its roots elsewhere. Live and learn!

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