About Labour Day (Labor Day) aka International Workers' Day or May Day
Most countries celebrate Labour Day on May 1st, also known as May Day, which has also been designated by the United Nations as International Workers' Day. The U.S. and Canada celebrate Labor Day the first Monday in September.
May 1st is an important holiday in France because it is technically two holidays rolled into one day. May Day and Labour Day are both celebrated on the first of May and each has a distinctive history in France.
The older of the two holidays is May Day, which originated on May 1st in 1561. Charles IX was given a lily of the valley branch as a symbol of good luck during his reign. He loved the idea so much that he ended up giving some to every woman that was in his court. This started the addition of muguet, which translates to lily of the valley in English, that people still do to this day.
In more recent history, Labour Day originated back in 1948. Workers had little to no rights previously and this sparked a vicious political fight. It wasn’t until after World War II that workers began to get rights and protection from the work they do to provide for themselves and their family.
Celebrations in France
On May Day, people give a sprig or a whole plant to friends and family to show you wish good luck for them. According to tradition, you’ll have more luck based on how many bell-like flowers are on the muguet. Families with children typically get up early in the morning on May 1st to go pick some wild muguets that they’ll either keep for their home or give to someone else close to them. There are some parades that happen to celebrate Labour Day and to continue working towards more rights for workers.
Tips for Traveling to France during Labour Day
Many places will be closed on May 1st in France due to it being Labour Day and May Day. While traveling, check hours for wherever you are visiting to be sure that they will be open.
It is common to give muguet, or lily of the valley, to friends or family to symbolize your hope that they’ll have good luck, so understand that it is simply a good will gift.