HELLLOOOOOO, MAY! WELCOME! And you have arrived not a moment too soon! I LOVE MAY! It is full of good things. What, you ask? First of all, it is a holiday in France. May Day is France’s Labor Day AND the Fête du Muguet. Return of Spring. Flowers. Fun. We are ALL restored to a natural state of good health under the Law of Grace. And, so it is. Seriously,
Labor Day in France is always a designated day of action. France is never at a loss for a reason to hit the streets and take action!!!!! Haha. But, Labor Day obligates the French to do something!!!! Trade unions and other organizations take this day to organize marches and demonstrations to campaign for workers rights and other social issues. Nobody told the French that they don’t know how good they have it. THEY DID NOT GET THE MEMO. So how did May 1st become such an important day for workers’ rights in France anyway when every day is an important day for workers’ rights in France?
Surely there’s nothing more French than protests and demonstrations, but this day of action actually gets its origins from a huge strike in Chicago in 1886. On May 1st, 35,000 workers walked out of their jobs, joined by tens of thousands more in the next couple days, leading a national movement for an eight-hour work day. Three years later, France decided to establish an “International Workers’ Day” with the same goal, but it didn’t officially become a paid day off until 1941 under the Vichy regime.
But May Day isn’t all protests and political events. It’s also about flowers and good luck. So, why is May Day also called the Fête du Muguet? On the first of May in 1561, France’s King Charles IX was given a muguet flower, or lily of the valley in English, as a lucky charm and liked it so much that he decided to offer them each year to the ladies of the court.
These days, the flowers are sold in bouquets on the street around France and people offer them to friends or family members for good luck. I bought one at the grocery store.
And, ALSO, in 1890, May Day protesters started adorning their lapels with a red triangle, with the three sides representing the division of the ideal day in three equal parts: work, leisure, and sleep. For those protestors who still wear pins on their lapels on May 1st, the triangle has since been replaced by a small bouquet of the lily of the valley flower tied with a red ribbon. Mine does not have a red ribbon but I believe work, leisure, and sleep.
The May 1st holiday can actually be traced back to pagan rituals. For the Celtic people, this day marked the change passage from the dark, winter months to the return of the beaux jours, or the beautiful, sunny days of spring. The druids would light bonfires to symbolically protect their livestock from diseases. In northeastern France, they called the last night of April the “night of sorcerers”. Children would patrol the villages and gardens, gathering objects that they would then place in the center of the village, giving the sense of a supernatural intervention. These days, the last traces of these Celtic rituals only exist in certain parts of France that still practice the tradition of the “tree of May”. I don’t think this ritual exist in the 16e of Paris. Just lots of flowers and peace and quiet.
AND – The tree of May. France has LOTS of traditions. This rather quirky May Day tradition that has mostly fallen out of practice involves young men in some parts of France cutting down a tree during the night between the 30th of April and May 1st and then replanting it by the door of the woman they hoped to marry. Everybody around here has concrete and that wouldn’t work. It was a sign of honor and also a celebration of the arrival of May: the month of trees, water, and nature. We have that. Some trees, water, and nature. Other versions of this tradition saw this May tree placed in front of a church or at the home of a newlywed couple. Hmmmmmmm
Fête de la Terre. During medieval France, this time was a celebration of the season rather than ‘work’, as it was to become. It was named “Fête de la Terre”. This was also a time to celebrate the shepherds, who worked in the land. A feast would be hosted for three days in celebration, during which time musical parades would take place with people dancing and riding mules adorned with ribbons through the villages, to an enormous banquet. This tradition is best preserved in rural areas of France, such as the mountainous department of Isère, or the south west region of Cahors, where the weekend surrounding the 1st is still one of celebration, using it as an excuse to come together and enjoy the good weather, with parades and markets of regional products. Frankly, the French don’t need a reason to come together and enjoy the good weather. They love to enjoy EVERYTHING and to celebrate
The National Front’s “patriotic banquet”
France’s extreme-right party the National Front is known for its yearly march from Place de l’Opéra to the statue of Joan of Arc at Place des Pyramides in the first arrondissement of Paris, which it’s been doing since 1988. But on a recent year, Marine Le Pen decided to scrap that plan in favor of a huge banquet at the Paris Event Center in the northern part of the city, with more than 2,000 people expected to attend. The party said the change was due to reasons of security. Marine Le Pen’s father and the former head of the party, Jean-Marie Le Pen, ignored the change of plans and called for people to join him at the old meeting spot anyway. I don’t know what happened.
But, this year, May 1 demonstrations are expected through France this weekend. Historically, these demonstrations sometimes become disruptive and/or violent. U.S. citizens should be cautious throughout France. Areas of particular concern include:
- Strasbourg, Place du Marechal de Lattre de Tassigny towards Place d’Austerlitz, from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Antifa groups protesting, with a risk of riots;
- Lyon, Place Jean MACE towards Place Bellecour, beginning at 10:30 a.m., antifacist protest with risk of riots;
- ·Paris, Place de la Republique, where multiple protests are planned throughout the day.
- Demonstration Alert – U.S. Embassy Paris, France
- April 30, 2021, Cities and towns throughout France on May 1
NOW, I am also going to celebrate by posting pretty pictures that make me feel good when I look at them. I have a new philosophy. I may not give credit to the photographer or to the artist. I apologize in advance, but it is laborious. And, on May Day, I am taking a holiday from obligations to give credit. Just enjoy.
So, Happy May Day, good luck, natural state of good health, and other good things. The cafes with be up and running on patios on May 17. I get my second shot next Saturday. LIVE, LAUGH, AND BE MERRY. The Best is Yet to Come!!!!
Best, Jay (just a headshot I like. )