May 1st is globally associated with Worker’s Day, but did you know that it is also the day that friends in France and Belgium honour each other and their friendship? This most endearing tradition started centuries ago, in 1560, on May 1st. A knight, Louis Girard, presented his king, King Charles IX, with a bunch of lily-of-the-valley (Muguet in French), wishing him luck and prosperity for the year ahead. King Charles IX loved the symbolism behind the gift and promptly started a new tradition: from then on, he presented the ladies of his court with bunches of muguet on May 1st. This tradition is very much alive and well today and has since become the day to honour friendship. Friends offer each other little bouquets or lily-of-the-valley plants to show their affection.
That other mainstay of French gorgeousness, the House of Christian Dior, has found a muse in this delicate spring flower. It has been a favourite of the master designer himself, who grew up in a house set in a beautiful garden. His florist grew muguet in a greenhouse year-round, so that he could always wear a sprig in his buttonhole. His ‘petits mains’ (seamstresses) were also instructed to sew sprigs of lily-of-the-valley into the hems of ballgowns and the mannequins had some of the dainty flowers pinned under their lapels when walking the catwalk.
The muguet flower has found its way into many Dior collections in embroidered and beaded form and it was even the inspiration for Diorissimo, a fresh perfume created in 1956. It is described as ‘fresh and clear, just like a dewy spring morning in the woods’.
In France, the lily-of-the-valley is hailed as a legendary flower, the harbinger of spring and a symbol of hope, happiness and joy.
Decorate your soul.