May 1st and Lily of the Valley

When I was a little girl growing up in France, May 1st was a special day. Sprigs of lily of the valley were sold everywhere in the streets for a modest sum.
My mother didn’t buy any since our garden had filled with not only lily of the valley or muguet in French but daffodils, tulips and other spring flowers.
King Charles IX started the tradition when he received a sprig of lily of the valley as a lucky charm. Much later in the early 20th century, the flower became the symbol of la fête du travail or Labor Day in English.
That day, thousands of people march through the streets of France with banners and microphones, gathering all unionized workers.
This year, their number has decreased. The different unions disagree on so many issues that so they chose to walk independently. The sans papiers or undocumented immigrants living in France were invited to join the demonstrations.
Today, all across Europe people marched as well. According to the French papers Le Monde and Libération, from Germany to Turkey, from Greece to Spain, the same angst for jobs and social security was palpable. Greece and Russia exploded with violence while most demonstrations went peacefully in the rest of Europe.
Asia saw its share of incidents in Macao and Indonesia where police and protestors clashed against each other.
Here, in the US, people didn’t wait for May 1st but instead picked April 29 to march on Wall Street reclaiming justice. The vast majority of Americans opposed the bail out of the banks and financial industry. Now that information about significant profits has been released, it is a wonder violence didn’t erupt also at home.
Today, like in Paris, protests in favor of immigration brought thousands in the streets of Los Angeles.
This morning, I read that two sprigs of lily of the valley were sold for as much as four euros all over France. With unemployment skyrocketing, many French didn’t buy the symbolic flower of Labor Day.
Then, I thought, one thing is sure: my mother certainly hasn’t changed her habits. Today she must have picked sprigs from her garden and made a beautiful bouquet. She could have sold it for 100 euros. Instead she did, I’m sure, what she has done every May 1st. She put a couple of sprigs in each room of her house.
After all, lily of the valley was first meant to be a good luck flower.

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