My sister came to stay at the weekend and she brought her granddaughter Lily with her. Lily’s name sake is the lily of the valley flower – those delicate plants which at this time of year in France are absolutely everywhere – filling the shelves in shops and perfuming the air with their beautiful scent.
I knew that it was traditional to give lily of the valley known as muguet in French, on May Day but I didn’t know why so I decided to check it out and found a surprisingly lovely story to tell Lily.
The plant has long been considered a symbol of spring, renewal and luck since the days of the Celts. However it really gained importance in France after King Charles IX of France was given a lily of the valley plant on the 1st May in 1561. He was told it would bring him luck and being a superstitious person, he thought it would be a nice idea to give a lily of the valley plant every year on May 1st to the ladies of his court to bring more luck all round.
It seems the idea found popularity and it became a tradition for men to offer a lily of the valley bouquet to loved ones and sweethearts as a token of devotion and love. The flowers were also made into buttonhole sprigs for boys to wear to parties in the olden days called “bals de muguet” where girls dressed in white were allowed to meet potential boyfriends without their parents being present to put a damper on things! At the “bals de muguet” a sweet Moselle wine was served and it was said that to be happy all year one had only to drink the wine known as “May drink” on May 1st.
To this day the French buy lily of the valley plants for their friends and family on May Day as a token of appreciation and to bring happiness and good luck.