While Labor Day is a day of protests and demand demonstrations organized by trade unions, it is also a day full of opportunities and traditionally a day to think of loved ones (and especially a loved one). During this day, you have to pay as much attention to the route of the procession parades of demonstrators as to the stalls selling lily of the valley. Indeed, it is customary to offer a sprig or a bouquet of lily of the valley.
The origin in France of this tradition in France dates from the 16th century. After being offered lily of the valley a year earlier by a knight on May 1 (to celebrate the end of winter and to bring good luck), Charles IX decided to make it a custom. Thus, from 1561, he offered lily of the valley to the ladies of the Court. It has since been considered a lucky charm.
From 1900, the lily of the valley became a symbol of the class struggle when the couturiers of Christian Dior all picked up a sprig of lily of the valley at a party, as did the customers, to the chagrin of the latter. By offering the same gift to employees and customers, Maison Dior created a symbol for the workers’ struggle that is now associated with Labor Day. This association between the symbol and this date is particularly exacerbated by the tolerance exercised regarding its sale by individuals during the day of May 1st only.
The enthusiasm around this tradition has declined since the 2000s. According to figures from Kantar concerning the sale of lilies of the valley for 2021, the French spent 25.8 million euros on these flowers on the occasion of the 1st may. 41% of sales were made mainly at florists against 23% in supermarkets. Also according to this survey, street vending is not in the ranking of the most popular points of sale with only 6% of estimated sales in the street. This figure shows the very marginal share of sales by individuals today and the attenuation of this tradition.
Sales of lily of the valley are also down, but many French people still hold on to this custom, and it is not likely to disappear any time soon.
 Source: study carried out using the Kantar consumer panel for VAL’HOR and FranceAgriMer (2021 data). Sample of 7,000 households representative of households aged 18 and over located in France.