It is a tradition in France on May Day (1st May) to offer a sprig of lily of the valley (un brin de muguet) to one’s loved ones as a lucky charm (un porte-bonheur).
As a student in France in the late 1960s I can remember seeing on street corners vendeurs de muguet with buckets of lilies of the valley selling little bouquets of these fragrant spring flowers. Today (or rather in normal circumstance) you are more likely to find them being sold in florists and supermarkets. By all accounts the French spend millions of Euros (31.8 million Euros in 2013) on buying the plants.
The plant has long been considered a symbol of spring, renewal and luck since the days of the Celts. However, it really gained importance in France after King Charles IX was given a lily of the valley plant on the 1st May in 1561. He was told it would bring him luck and, being a superstitious person, he thought it would be a nice idea to give a lily of the valley plant every year on May 1st to the ladies of his court to bring more luck all round.
It is said that whoever finds a lily of the valley with 13 small bells will be particularly lucky
Today I offer here a bouquet of lily of the valley picked from my garden in the hope that it brings a bit of luck to all who read my article.
In a corner of my tiny garden lily of the valley seems to flourish (even popping up at times through concrete).
In another corner (and spreading everywhere) I also have woodruff, which in French is known as “le muguet des bois”
Woodruff (in French le muguet des bois)
I also share this little story linking lily of the valley with the nightingale:
THE STORY OF LILY OF THE VALLEY AND THE NIGHTINGALE
Once upon a time, the very first lily of the valley was in love with a nightingale. Every night, the nightingale would come to the garden to sing. However, the lily of the valley was shy and hid herself from the bird. So after a while, he grew lonely and flew away.
Alone in the garden, the lily of the valley waited in vain for the nightingale to return. Eventually, she grew so sad that she stopped blooming. She resumed flowering only when the nightingale reappeared (in May) and her happiness was restored.