May 1 is a national holiday in France, where people celebrate “la Fête du Travail” (Labor Day). On this day post offices, banks, restaurants and businesses are closed. Trade unions and other organizations organize parades and demonstrations to campaign for workers rights.
A popular custom wants that people offer a bouquet of lily of the valley flowers. This custom goes back to King Charles IX of France. He was presented with lily of the valley flowers on May 1, 1561. He liked the gift and decided to present lily of the valley flowers to the ladies of his court each year on May 1. Around 1900, men started to present a bouquet of lily of the valley flowers to women to express their affection. The flowers are a more general token of appreciation between close friends and family members these days.
The eight-hour working day was officially introduced in France on April 23, 1919, and May 1 became a public holiday. May Day was not observed during World War II. However, May 1 became a public holiday again in 1947. May 1 officially became known as La Fête du Travail (Labor Day) on April 29, 1948. Since then, it has been an occasion to campaign for and celebrate workers’ rights. The day is also known as Labor Day in other parts of the world.
And you, how do you celebrate May Day in your region?