Sunday, 1 May 2011

Flowers for lovers

I spent May Day with Jean Claude. He had picked me up from Orly airport the evening before. For a long time I have wondered if I would ever get to spend the first of May with a special man in France. The best I ever managed was to receive an ecard from Nicolas who didn't seem to want to send it. Why the reluctance? Because the first day of May has meaning in France. It's a tradition that people in many areas here give bouquets of lily-of-the-valley to special friends and loved ones.

May 1 is a public holiday in France. Post offices, banks, stores and other businesses are closed. This year it occurred on a Sunday so we didn't get the day off work. It's Fete de Muguet and lily of the valley is celebrated and given. This celebration of the highly perfumed spring flower got started when King Charles IX of France was presented with lily of the valley flowers in 1561. He decided he liked the gift and so presented lily of the valley flowers to the ladies of his court each year on May 1. At the start of the twentieth century, men started to present a bouquet of lily of the valley flowers to women to express their affection. The flowers are also given to show appreciation between close friends and family members.

The other celebration of May Day and the reason it is usually a holiday is to celebrate Labour Day or the introduction of the 8 hour working day which was officially introduced in France on April 23, 1919. May Day was not observed during World War II but became a public holiday again in 1947. May 1 officially became known as La FĂȘte du Travail (Labor Day) on April 29, 1948. Since then, it has been an occasion to campaign for and celebrate workers' rights.

Jean Claude surprised me by cutting some lily of the valley flowers from his garden and presenting it to me. Wrapped in damp paper and tin foil it looked very pretty and lasted long enough for me to take it home today. It was a lovely romantic gesture. I'm enjoying having him in my life. He's unstintingly generous and gentle and so often finds ways to make my life more pleasant or easier. I really appreciate this and enjoyed being able to give him some items I'd brought from Barcelona; a T shirt in his favourite colours and a bottle of Spanish white wine. We'll break open the bottle of Spanish Red next weekend.

What a different May Day I am having this year. Last year I was facing unemployment later in the year, no lover for a long time, no prospects of my days becoming easier or more fun or less lonely. This year I have affection and good company, adventures in Europe, I live in my favourite country and I am employed. I'm even a small part of a big European project. Life is still not easy in terms of day-to-day practicalities and I have no security in anything. I don't know what the future holds with my job or JC but I'm living, there are more positive surprises happening these days and I'm grateful for my NOW!


Alison said...

A lovely post. Carpe diem.

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