The first of May is associated with flowers dating back to pre-Christian times when it hosted the festival of Flora. At one time it was also considered the first day of summer and the solstice (June 21) was mid-summer. We used to celebrate it with little May baskets hung on doorknobs, filled with freshly picked pansies or other flowers from our garden. At our local farms, we’ve had folk dancing ‘round the Maypole this morning, replete with garlands and ribbons and festive costumes. So here are a few flowers from my garden to celebrate.
OK report from Paris that May Day is a public holiday, as it is also in other parts of Europe, Stores are closed except for the flower shops that are full of lilies of the valley (muguets). Tradition has it that on May 1, 1581 (thank you Wikipedia), King Charles IX of France received a lily of the valley as his lucky charm and thereafter offered the delicate flower to ladies of the court. Today, France allows the sale of these flowers free of taxation! A French friend said that only members of the Communist party are allowed to sell them. Since May Day is also known as International Workers’ Day (the anniversary of the 8-hour workday and a memorial for the 1886 Chicago Haymarket incident), how did that happen?
May Day in Germany and other northern European countries follows Walpurgisnacht, a bonfire-filled celebration that must be purging winter spirits and ushering in the new season. From the opening of the local farmer’s market and the running of the Kentucky Derby today, we’ve clearly entered a new season, official or not.