01 May 2011

May Day, Lily of the Valley and lots of dancing

Today is May day, a time when we share a small sprig of Muguet or Lily of the Valley with loved ones! I remember my Grandfather hiding a sprig or two for Granny in his overcoat. At 6ft 3 he must have felt very selfconcious carrying it perhaps but he never forgot and she treasured this moment always.

It is of course also Labour Day for most of us!

Originally from Japan Lily of the Valley was first introduced in Europe in the Middle Ages and was regarded as lucky by the Celts.  King Charles IX of France is thought to have begun the tradition of giving a small sprig of Lily of the Valley to ladies of the Court on May 1st each year after he received a small nosegay as a token of luck and prosperity in 1561.

On this first of the month of May, villagers would wake up at sunset and roam the countryside to gather blossoms and greenery. A maypole would be set up on the village green and decorated with field flowers. Singing and dancing around the pole whilst accompanied by a Piper, villagers would celebrate the beginning of the planting season afterwhich they would select a Queen!
This lovely custom is still kept in some areas thankfully. 


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