Happy May Day!

May 1, 2013

lilies of the valley for May Day

By Gabrielle. Photo by Paul Ferney for Design Mom.

Happy May Day to you and yours!

Here in France, May 1st is Labor Day, but it also goes by La Fête du Muguet, which means Lily of the Valley Day. It’s a public holiday and the tradition is to give a sprig of Lily of the Valley to loved ones and neighbors. I was reading a bit about this tradition, and apparently it dates to the 1500s when King Charles IX of France was given Lilies of the Valley as a good luck token. 1500s?! I’d say that’s an enduring tradition! If you’re curious, you can read a bit more about the holiday here.

Lilies of the Valley for May Day

Will you be doing anything to mark the day? Maybe there’s a Maypole festival at your school? Or perhaps, you’ll be making these adorable May Day Baskets for your children to hang on the neighbor’s door.

P.S. — More May holidays! Cinco de Mayo is coming up fast. Here are tons of fun ideas.

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{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jennifer F. - American Mom in Bordeaux May 1, 2013 at 6:43 am

Happy May Day to you and your family! Enjoy the day! We are enjoying the day en famille walking through a park in Downtown Bordeaux (Unfortunately, between the rain drops – but that’s what makes it fun!) I adore this tradition of giving Lily of the Valley to family & friends – such a thoughtful gesture!


2 Design Mom May 1, 2013 at 1:26 pm

Rain, rain go away!


3 Jennifer F. - American Mom in Bordeaux May 1, 2013 at 1:33 pm

Thank you…The rain did clear and we had a beautiful afternoon by the river in Bordeaux. My girls even frolicked in the reflecting pool with the sunshine! Met up with good friends and enjoyed watching the girls take photos for their instagrams! Hope you had a wonderful day!


4 kyran May 1, 2013 at 7:19 am

Lovely! I have lily-of-the-valley growing in my yard. I’ll have to pick some to give away. :-)


5 Design Mom May 1, 2013 at 1:27 pm

Of course you have lily-of-the-valley growing in your yard. You’re the coolest.


6 Jennifer May 1, 2013 at 8:00 am

What a beautiful and enduring tradition! I wish my hometown would adopt that as opposed to the destruction to businesses and public property that will occur in downtown Seattle by thugs. Perhaps next year I can organize a counter “demonstration” more in the French spirit of the holiday.


7 Design Mom May 1, 2013 at 1:27 pm

I feel like I’m missing something. Is there a May 1st vandal tradition in Seattle?


8 Meaghan May 2, 2013 at 1:43 pm

From my perspective here in Portland, OR, the Seattle protests/march got violent yesterday. And the news coverage here seemed genuinely surprised that the Portland march was peaceful. I am relatively new in town so i have no clue what the marches were all about.


9 Stephanie Precourt May 1, 2013 at 8:07 am

We just moved to a small town on the coast and they do a Maypole dance and song at our city park with the kids. Can’t wait! It’s my first time doing anything special for May Day!



10 Design Mom May 1, 2013 at 1:28 pm

Oh how fun, Steph! Have a fantastic time.


11 Trisha May 1, 2013 at 8:18 am

It’s also the Gaelic festival of Beltane. And St. Walpurg’s Night, a big student’s festival in Scandinavia and the Baltics. That makes it better than just a boring old Wednesday at my desk!


12 Design Mom May 1, 2013 at 1:28 pm

Wow. May 1st really has it going on!


13 Brittany @ The 1000th Voice May 1, 2013 at 9:00 am

We received surprise May Day gifts at work from an anonymous source, and my Mom sent DD a May Day gift. I wanted to give baskets to our neighbors, but we just moved and things have been too hectic.

Your post reminds me how much I love Lily of the Valley. So pretty and delicate!


14 Design Mom May 1, 2013 at 1:29 pm

I’ll bet those anonymous gifts at work made your day. How fun!


15 aimee @ smiling mama May 1, 2013 at 9:51 am

Thanks for sharing that fun tradition! My wedding anniversary is in a few days and my bouquet was lily of the valley, so they hold a special place in my heart. A few years ago my husband planted some in our garden and the first ones are just blooming. Maybe I’ll snip one to give to him tonight!


16 Design Mom May 1, 2013 at 1:29 pm

So romantic, Aimee!


17 Alice May 1, 2013 at 12:49 pm

Is it a public holiday there? It’s not in the UK but it seems like most of Europe is having the day off, I’m gutted!


18 Design Mom May 1, 2013 at 1:30 pm

For sure! All the stores are closed. It’s a full on national holiday.


19 Helene May 1, 2013 at 2:01 pm

I love the fisrt of May!
You guys have lemonade stands in the Us, we have Lily of the valley stand here inFrance. (or we had, i haven’t seen too many these last few years)
We used to go and pick a few basket full in the campaign near our village and sell them at a stand we set up on the raod. I do feel old now that i realise how many years it has been since!
Yet i still make sure i have and give some around this time of year.
And yeah, labor day is pretty cool without said labor for the day!


20 Melissa May 1, 2013 at 7:13 pm

Happy May Day! I love Lily of the Valley! My mom has always loved it, so it reminds me of her. I’ll have to make a mental note to find some to give away next year on May Day!


21 giulia May 2, 2013 at 8:33 am

i never really loved may first, to me it was simply a day off to study, finish stuff up and hang out. but this year’s was wonderful. it really felt like summer and got me oh so excited! i actually wrote about it on my blog because it was simply perfect:)


22 Carly May 2, 2013 at 12:56 pm

When I was living in Paris two years ago, I had no idea about the lily of the valley tradition. I was walking around town and saw so many people holding little bouquets; I had to get one for myself. They’re so pretty!


23 M May 2, 2013 at 5:53 pm

We’re in Hawaii, where May Day is also Lei Day, and there are big May Day performances at the elementary schools, with dancing, singing, etc. Lots of fun! :)


24 Catherine May 4, 2013 at 9:50 am

Bonne fêtes de muguet! My mum has been telling me about these since forever. She used to sell these as a child living in Paris years ago. This year since we are in France, Angers and mum just happens to be visiting us at this time. I received my first bouquet with good luck wish – I was very touched.
Driving around on this day, we saw little stands on corners even a man standing in the rain , hiding under his umbrella with a bucket full of muguet on the corner of a main road) in front of boulangeries … It was amazing.


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