The 1st May, knowns as May Day, is an International Day of the workers, celebrated in most of the free-world countries. In many places, there are organized protests but nowhere with such enthusiasm like in France. I can easily say that it was France who invented manifestations and they continue to use the right to protest for their rights almost all the time! Basically, there are not many days in the year without grève in France. Nowadays, the national railway company SNCF launched three months of rolling train strike against a new Macron’s reform related to state rail system. Every 3 days for 2 days the trains are disrupted causing major chaos all around the country. Imagine only 1 train out of 5 is working during crucial months – April ( Easter time and spring holiday for kids ), May ( many public holidays when people are off and travel) and June ( children and students finish their school year and want to travel ). You are lucky if you be able to take this one out of five trains since hundreds of people are gathering during the time of waiting. Also, the prices of the tickets raised fast and there are extremely high.
This was just a small mention, now I would like to tell you about the First May in France. This is the only day of the year when employees have legal right to be given leave on demand without being interrupted – like workers of hospitals or public transport. That day the trade unions organize parades in major cities ( of course the biggest one is in Paris ) to defend worker’s rights. But not only. The parades, demonstrations, marches are allowed for everyone who wants to protest against anything. I was very surprised when I went yesterday to the meeting place of the manifestation and saw people from all around the world complaining about the situation in their home countries.
Well, it looks like that day in France we can argue against anything we want and no one would judge us – this is called freedom of speech!
What else is happening on the 1st may in France?
Well, this can be surprising at first, but in every corner, in most of the cities, you find people selling bouquets of lily-of-the-valley or dog rose flowers. Families get up early in the morning to pick up flowers from the woods to sell them later. Everyone is allowed to stand wherever he/she wants and sell lily-of-the-valley that day without paying tax or complying with retail regulations.
This custom dates back to 1561 when King Charles IX gave a lily of the valley to all ladies in the kingdom. Later, many shop owners started giving the flowers to their customers on 1st May and this how the tradition has been made. Additionally, during the protestations, people used to attach the lily of the valley to their jackets in buttonhole (like we use to do now on weddings). Le muguet (fr.) replaced wild rose and became the official plant of 1st May in France. It should bring you luck so do not hesitate to buy it and give it to loved ones!
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