Celebrations of Labour Day in France are eclectic. It has both socialistic and royal traits in it.
What happened on the first of May?
Due to fatal social conditions and low wages, people began to protest the situation related to the labour market. They demanded an 8-hour working day. Protests took place on 1 May 1886 in Chicago and were organized by American Unions. Demonstrations were peaceful and included about 300 000 workers. Several days elapsed and someone planted a bomb in the city. As it turned out, the people responsible for the damage were anarchists.
The first commemoration of the strike
The idea of commemorating the above-mentioned event took shape during the 2nd International Socialists meeting in Paris. The communists chose the 1st of May as Labour Day. The idea of the 8-hour working day was not realized at the time, and the people needed to organize themselves to introduce desired changes. The dream of the labour unions came true in 1919. It was when the prime minister of France, Georges Clemenceau, signed the International Labour Organization Convention. Thus May Day became a public holiday in the country.
May Day appears and disappears
In France under the Vichy regime politicians decided to reintroduce the event under the name of “May Day and Social concord Day”. After the downfall of the Vichy regime, there is a time gap, concerning the celebrations. The next round of it comes in by the decision of the government in 1946. The celebrations of the 1 of May became more established in 1948, when it became a paid day off for employees. It was the second time when the 8th of May was introduced as a public holiday.
Handing out flowers: typical French custom
There is an original French custom, which accompanies the celebrations of the 1st of May and even forms an integral part of it. People give away flowers not only to women they love or care about but to friends and acquaintances. Not every flower is appropriate for this occasion, but only the lilies of the valley. Sometimes, instead of cut flowers, they give flower pots. People sometimes mix lilies of the valley with roses, which is... a communistic accent! Yes, indeed, a communistic accent, because a rose in this context is a symbol of communism, officially claimed by the Left. Lilies-of-the-valley is a completely different story, this time connected with the royalty.
What the king has to do with it?...
History of the 1st of May has not only socialist but also a royal history. It was the first of May, 1561, when King Charles IX of France received a bunch of lily-of-the-valley flowers. It was given to him with the best of wishes for the coming year. But why in May?... We have to remember, that in medieval France some parts of the country marked this month as the beginning of the year. King Charles IX was then a child of 10 years. After he received the gift, he decided to hand out flowers to the court ladies. Since then offering the gift of lilies of the valley flowers became a national custom.
The symbolism connected with the festival
There are various symbols, connected with the festival. Firstly, the lilies of the valley represent friendship, warm affection and the coming of Spring. It is also connected with the pagan new year celebrations, which were held by the arrival of Spring. It is connected with the festival of the goddess Flora, celebrated by the Romans from the end of April to the 3rd of May. Another flower, which is being handed out by the Franch on the first day of May, is the rose. Roses are seldom given away separately, usually, they are in addition to the lilies of the valley. They represent socialism. The symbolism of the rose is associated with the petal in the form of a triangle and it is the source of this symbol. The triangle symbolizes the figure formed by tree eights, which were connected with the demands of the workers. One "eight" stands for 8 hours of work, another for 8 hours of sleep, and the last one for eight hours of leisure. Every "eight" stands for a separate corner of the figure. In 1907 trade unions adopted as a symbol a bunch of lilies of the valley.
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