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Labour Day
Major holiday before thisEaster
Major holiday after thisVictory in Europe Day

Labour Day 2018 and 2019

Labour Day is a public holiday in France that celebrates workers’ contributions to society.

YearDateDayHoliday
20181 MayTueLabour Day
20191 MayWedLabour Day
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The holiday is celebrated annually on May 1. In French, Labour Day is known as Fete du Travail. It is also often referred to as Fete du Muguet. In French, this means May Day. While Labour Day is celebrated in many areas of the world, the French holiday is unique due to a combination of global and historical French traditions. Fete du Travail is a time for the French people to spend time with their friends and family members while enjoying a day off from work. All banks and most businesses are closed during Labour Day in France.

History

In 1886, a group of factory workers formed a union and gathered in Chicago’s Haymarket Square. These American workers had the intention of fighting for increased wages and safe working conditions. Unfortunately, a riot broke out due to an attack by several anarchists. This riot left many of the protesters dead or seriously wounded. In a show of solidarity, workers from across the globe gathered to honour the cause of the massacred workers. In the end, many workers from across the world experienced improved working conditions. France was among one of the first nations to observe the holiday, but Labour Day did not become an official French holiday until April 24, 1941.

Combination of Labour Day with Spring Traditions

Prior to the establishment of Labour Day in France, May 1 was a day reserved for spring celebrations. To celebrate warm weather and peace, many couples went on dates and suitors pursued potential spouses. To make finding a spouse simpler for French people, many formal dances were created for the holiday. These dances became known as the Balls of May.

The Lilies of the Valley

On May Day, a flower known as the “lily of the valley” is quite popular. Lilies of the valley are sold in most areas of France during Labour Day. While lilies of the valley can be found in several forests in the French countryside, most of the flowers that are sold come from Nantes.

According to French traditions, the lily of the valley is a flower that originated from Eve’s tears when she was forced to leave the Garden of Eden. Other stories suggest that the flower was formed from the tears of Mary after the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. While the origin stories may be debated, it is certain that lilies of the valley were distributed as early as 1561 CE. In 1561, King Charles IX of France received a lily of the valley as a lucky charm. Soon after this, the French monarchy began giving lilies of the valley to the ladies of the court. In the 20th century, the practice expanded to the common people of France. Lilies of the valley became tokens of appreciation. On May 1, people gave the flowers to their friends and colleagues. During the modern May Day holidays, employers give lilies of the valley to their workers. It is also a common practice for students to give lilies of the valley to their favourite instructors.

Lilies of the valley are not taxed by the government of France. Traditionally, sales from the flowers were used to assist unemployed people. In the past, annual profits from lilies of the valley exceeded €25 million.

Labour Day is a French holiday that gives the French people an opportunity to celebrate workers and their contributions to society. It is also a time of many familial and cultural traditions.