Sunday, May 1, 2011

May Day

It's the first of May, the day when all young maidens need to get up at dawn and wash their faces in the early morning dew to ensure everlasting beauty!

The first of May is a significant day all over the world for various reasons but here in France May Day and Lily of the valley or Le Muguet as they are known in France are inextricably linked.

I first came across Le Muguet with Belle Mere she had come to stay and help me out in the garden soon after we first bought the house, (Belle Mere is a gardener par excellence, previous to living in this house my gardening experience was nil, I have learnt a lot since then and much of this is down to Belle Mere) we were digging away on a patch of land trying to get rid of all the weeds, I started yanking something out of the Earth, Belle Mere, saw me and shouted "No, no, not those, they are very precious and bring good luck, take them out carefully and I will replant them somewhere for you" she then proceeded to tell me all about them...

On the run up to the first of May you will see Le Muguet practically everywhere in France; at the supermarket, on sale in the local markets in the fashion magazines and in shop window displays, the first of May is a national holiday in France it is Labour day and also the day when the French celebrate spring, Le Muguet comes into flower around the first of May and the French  buy it or pick it, as flowers, plants or arrangements to take as gifts to loved one's and close friends as a porte bonheur (good luck charm).  It is also the only day in France when people can sell flowers in the street without having a permit.

The tradition of Le Muguet reputedly began in the 16th century when the wedding banns were announced at the beginning of May and wreathes of Le Muguet were hung in the doorways of the brides-to-be.  Charles IX started giving them to the ladies of his court for luck. In the late 1800s, the international workers declared the first of May as May Day, in honour of the workers of the world, in France workers and their supporters wore Le Muguet boutonnieres.

Charles IX

As we all have now seen The Duchess of Cambridge took inspiration for her wedding dress from Princess Grace of Monaco, who also married in April and also chose Lily of the Valley for her wedding bouquet.  I found out yesterday that it is customary for Royal brides who marry at Westminster Abbey, to leave their wedding bouquets at the tomb of the unknown soldier, I thought this rather lovely.

Kate's, wedding bouquet at the tomb of the unknown soldier in Westminster Abbey

Princess Grace with Lily of the Valley she adored them

 Illustration from 1934

I have always found them magical and associated them with childhood imaginings of fairy's at the bottom of the garden.

Fabergé Egg with Lily of the Valley design presented to the Russian Royal Family Easter 1898

Lily of the Valley brooch from Tiffany's

Christian Dior used Lily of the Valley as his emblem for his brief but successful career, Le Muguet was the inspiration behind his Spring 1954 collection.  The classic and world famous fragrance 'Diorissimo' is based on Le Muguet but bear in mind no extract can be obtained from the natural flowers so all Muguet scents are reconstructions. Edmond Roudnitska, the great nose and master perfumer behind 'Diorissimo' spent a lot of his time on his hands and knees sniffing Le Muguet he planted in his own garden, whilst researching his attempt at recreating the scent.

Christian Dior Spring 1954

Whatever you are doing this May Day, I hope you are having a lovely time.


  1. Wishing you and yours a very happy May Day!

  2. What a wonderful post! I adore Lily of the Valley; I thought Kate's bouquet was lovely. Happy May Day to you too!

  3. Hello Dash:
    What a beautifully presented post in which you have tied together all manner of disparate things into a wonderful celebration of May Day. Your images,so well chosen, are captivating as are the snippets of information, historical or otherwise, which you give us along the way.

  4. Hi This is Wizz I am with your big sister we love your site, and have enjoyed reading May Day!!!

    Sending lots of love hope Crusoe is well will blog on again take care lots of love X X X

  5. Fantastic post,full of magical spring flowers and OMG....Grace Kelly is so,so goegeous in her wedding dress!!!
    All stories and images here are wonderful!
    Thank you so very much for share,

  6. Happy Mayday to you too! I'd forgotten until I read this.

    I adore Lily of the Valley and that was very interesting to read.

    Wasn't Princess Grace's dress amazing and she was so beautiful.

    Hope you're having a lovely weekend xx

  7. You really do post about the most interesting things. I love Lily of the Valley but I had no idea they had such significance in France.

    Am now madly coveting the Tiffany brooch! Argh.

  8. A lovely and beautiful blog!
    Meeting you has been a pleasure

  9. so beautiful! Happy May Day to you too! Thank you for sharing all of the beautiful photos. I am following your blog now and looking forward to reading more.

  10. I think this is an informative post and it is very useful and knowledgeable. therefore, I would like to thank you for the efforts you have made in writing this article. day lilies


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