Once in a while, I dig through my blog and retrieve a post.
I find it interesting because our blog posts represent the state of our personal lives and the position of the world at a specific period of time.
For May Day, I’m resuscitating a post that I wrote in 2010.
When I was a little girl growing up in France, May 1st was a special day. Sprigs of lily of the valley, muguet in French, were sold everywhere in the streets for a modest sum.
My mother didn’t buy any since our garden was filled with bunches of lily of the valley in the spring.
It is said that French King Charles IX received once, on the 1st of May, a sprig of lily of the valley as a lucky charm. This small gift started a tradition in the whole country of France.
Much later in the early 20th century, the flower became the symbol of la fête du travail, the equivalent of the American Labor Day.
Traditionally a sprig of muguet is also offered between lovers on that day. This is France after all.
In France, May 1st is a national holiday. Government offices, banks, schools, and many businesses are closed. In Paris and major cities some museums remain open as well as cafés and restaurants. However many will be closed.
On that day, thousands of people march through the streets of France, gathering unionized workers. The protests usually involve also activists working for an important timely social cause such as racism or immigration.
On May 1st, 2010, their number has decreased. The different unions disagree on so many issues that 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 justice 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 Day 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 the Premier May.
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 bouquet. She could have sold it for 100 Euros. Instead she did, I’m sure, what she has done every May 1st. She must have put a couple of sprigs in each room of the house.
After all, lily of the valley was first meant to be a good luck flower.
Do you remember of 2010?
As I was finishing this blog post, my husband arrived home with the mail.
“This one is for you,” he said, handing me an envelope.
Now, who does receive snail mail in 2014?
Even editors and agents prefer e-mails for submissions and rejections, too.
Inside the envelope was a pretty card with a Happy May Day message from a friend of mine. Each year, knowing that I used to celebrate in France, she makes sure to mention that day.
This year, she added something special.
Flowers have always the last word.
Is May Day celebrated where you live?
P.S. By the way, Teagan, on her inimitable blog, wrote about May Day, too.