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Labor Day / May Day in France

May Day (La Fête du Muguet, La Fête du Travail) in France is a public holiday to campaign for and celebrate workers rights. It is also an occasion to present lily-of-the-valley or dog rose flowers to loved ones.

Is Labor Day / May Day a Public Holiday?

Labor Day / May Day is a public holiday. It is a day off for the general population, and schools and most businesses are closed.

Dog rose flower macro

The dog rose flower is a type of plant typically presented to loved ones in France on May Day.

©iStockphoto.com/Laurie Knight

What Do People Do?

People in many areas give bouquets of lily-of-the-valley or dog rose flowers to loved ones. This custom is particularly common in the area around Paris known as Île-de-France. Families with children in country areas get up early in the morning and go into the woods to pick the flowers. Individuals and labour organizations in urban areas sell bouquets of lily of the valley on the street on May 1. There are special regulations that allow people and some organizations to sell these flowers on May 1 without paying tax or complying with retail regulations.

Trade unions and other organizations organize parades and demonstrations to campaign for workers rights on May 1. People may also use these events to campaign for human rights in general, to demonstrate against racism or highlight current social issues. 

Public Life

May 1 is a public holiday. Post offices, banks, stores and other businesses are closed. Outside of tourist areas, restaurants and cafes may be closed. However, some stores in Paris, as well as at airports and railway stations and along major highways, may be open. Public transport service schedules vary depending on where one lives and intends to travel. Parades and demonstrations may cause disruption to traffic in the centers of large cities, particularly Paris.

Background

King Charles IX of France was presented with lily of the valley flowers on May 1, 1561. He liked the gift and decided to present lily of the valley flowers to the ladies of his court each year on May 1. Around 1900, men started to present a bouquet of lily of the valley flowers to women to express their affection. The flowers are a more general token of appreciation between close friends and family members these days.

The eight-hour working day was officially introduced in France on April 23, 1919, and May 1 became a public holiday called Fête internationale des Travailleurs (International Worker's Day). During World War II, the Vichy regime renamed the holiday to Fête du Travail et de la Concorde sociale (Work and Social Unity Day). Between 1944 and 1947, there was no holiday on May 1. It officially became known as La Fête du Travail (Labor Day) on April 29, 1948. Since then, it has been an occasion to campaign for and celebrate workers' rights. The day is also known as Labor Day in other parts of the world.

Symbols

The lily of the valley and dog rose flowers are symbols of May Day in France.

About Labor Day / May Day in other countries

Read more about Labor Day / May Day.

Labor Day / May Day Observances

YearWeekdayDateNameHoliday TypeArea
2015FriMay 1Labor Day / May DayNational holiday 
2016SunMay 1Labor Day / May DayNational holiday 
2017MonMay 1Labor Day / May DayNational holiday 
2018TueMay 1Labor Day / May DayNational holiday 
2019WedMay 1Labor Day / May DayNational holiday 
2020FriMay 1Labor Day / May DayNational holiday 
2021SatMay 1Labor Day / May DayNational holiday 
2022SunMay 1Labor Day / May DayNational holiday 
2023MonMay 1Labor Day / May DayNational holiday 
2024WedMay 1Labor Day / May DayNational holiday 
2025ThuMay 1Labor Day / May DayNational holiday 

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