The tradition of offering sprigs of lily of the valley to those we love on the occasion of May 1 goes back a long way. In Roman times, the Florales were celebrated in May in honor of the goddess Flora. Similarly, in Greece, a bouquet of flowers was hung at the entrance of each house. But where does this springtime habit originate from?
Originally from Japan, the pretty plant also known as the lily of the valleys is recognizable thanks to its small white bells. Arrived in Europe in the Middle Ages, it still symbolizes today the return of spring and its beautiful days. It is used as a lucky charm for some, and also represented life and the future among the Celts.
If its stem and leaves contain a toxic poison, the bell flower is a very nice gift to offer on the occasion of the arrival of spring. Until the Renaissance, it was customary in the countryside to offer a branch at the end of winter to chase away curses.
In the 16th century, lovers' day was not yet celebrated on Valentine's Day but on May 1st. At the time, the lords had a bouquet of flowers offered to their beloved as a token of their love. Valentine's Day takes its name from the Roman saint who married couples in secret, thus opposing Emperor Claudius II the Gothic who wanted to send as many soldiers as possible to war.
In 1560, King Charles IX visited the Drôme accompanied by his mother Catherine de Médicis, and received a sprig of lily of the valley as a gift from the hands of the knight Louis de Girard de Maisonforte. Seduced by its perfume, he had it offered the following year to the ladies of the Court and declared "that it be done so every year", thus perpetuating the practice.
If today we find the little flower in many perfumes and even on the catwalks of fashion shows, it was on May 1, 1900 that the royal tradition gained popularity. On the occasion of a party given by the great Parisian couturiers, customers and employees all received a sprig of lily of the valley. Subsequently, small hands will continue to offer it to their customers and Christian Dior will choose to make it the symbol of his luxury house.
But what is the connection with Labor Day? On April 24, 1941, Marshal Pétain chose the date of May 1 (in reference to the May Day movement of 1886 in Chicago) to celebrate “Labour and Social Concord Day”. The red wild rose, associated with the left, will therefore be replaced by the bell plant.
Are you looking for a florist to offer a bouquet to a loved one and have flowers sent to them? Do not hesitate to place an order with us on the occasion of May 1st and take advantage of our fast delivery service. Delivery is made the same day for all orders placed before 3 p.m.!