While in England, the month of May brings up images of May poles and Morris dancers, for people in France, lily of the valley is what springs to mind.
The tradition is rumoured to have started when King Charles IX was offered a lily of the valley as a token of luck and prosperity for the coming year on the 1st of May 1561. The king rather liked the idea and decided to present the ladies of the court with a lily of the valley each year on the 1st of May.
From around 1900, it became traditional in France for men to present a bouquet of lily-of-the-valley flowers to their sweethearts to express their love and affection.
At the beginning of the 20th century, it became custom to give a sprig of lily of the valley, to family and friends on the 1st of May.
On that day, the government permits individuals and workers’ organisations to sell them tax-free.