trac
mercatique

The muguet tradition in France

le muguet (mew-geh) n.m.

 : lily of the valley

Question: So what are the French doing today, the first of May, besides la grasse matinée?

Answer: Waving snow-white porte-bonheurs through the air and wishing each other good luck!

Muguet Along little cobblestone paths in the French hinterland, and at noisy intersections across the city, French vendeurs de muguet are taking over street curbs with buckets of lilies of the valley and shouting Le muguet du premier mai!--cashing in on today's national holiday, Labor Day (or La Fête du Travail).

On May 1st it is the custom to offer loved ones little bouquets of those sweet-scented, clochette-shaped flowers--in a gesture of friendship and in celebration of spring. It's la Fête du Muguet!


Today, commercants are handing out the friendship flowers: the butcher (who should be off work, non?) is offering un brin de muguet to his faithful clients and some fancy boxed cakes have been seen leaving the chocolate shop with the little white flowers tucked beneath the shiny ribbons that fasten the boxes.

"Ah, bon?" My mother-in-law replies over the phone, étonnée. "Shopkeepers here in Marseilles don't offer muguet!"

After a moment of silence, she quietly admits that no one has ever offered her a bouquet of muguet des bois.... But that doesn't stop my belle-maman from taking un petit brin to her 'little neighbor' downstairs, a custom she took up several years ago, to add cheer to the lonely foyer of another forgotten heart.

                                       *     *     *

Bonne Fête du Muguet! Good luck to you in the challenges you face--bon courage wherever on this globe you may call home

The following lyrics are from the beloved French folk singer George Brassens. Check out his music and hear a few samples.

Le premier mai c'est pas gai / The first of May is not cheerful
Je trime a dit le muguet / I slave away, said the lily of the valley
Dix fois plus que d'habitude / Ten times more than usual
Regrettable servitude / A regrettable encumbrance

Muguet, sois pas chicaneur / Muguet, don't be a quibbler
Car tu donnes du bonheur / Because you make people happy...
Brin d' muguet, tu es quelqu'un... / Little bouquet of lily, you are somebody...
.


FRENCH VOCABULARY
faire la grasse matinée = "to do the fat morning" (to sleep in); un porte-bonheur (m) = lucky charm; vendeur, vendeuse de muguet = lily of the valley seller; Le muguet du premier mai! = The First of May's Lily of the Valley (buy some now)!; la clochette (f) = bell; commerçant(e) (adj) = businesslike; commerçant(e) (mf) = shopkeepers; Ah, bon? = oh, really?; étonné(e) = puzzled; le muguet des bois (m) = "lily of the woods" (woodruff); la belle-maman (f) = mother-in-law; un petit brin (m) = "a little blade" (a little bouquet); coo-toom (pronunciation for 'coutume' (f) = custom

AUDIO FILE--hear my son, Max, pronounce the word 'muguet':
Download muguet.wav


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