The Lily-of-the-Valley has many symbolic meanings. The association of this flower to the first signs of spring is rooted in Celtic tradition and Roman agrarian feasts dedicated to the divinity Flora.

In the language of flowers (floriography), the Lily-of-the-Valley means “The return of happiness” and, in French folklore is associated with the 13th wedding anniversary.

In France, the Lily-of-the-Valley’s tradition was officially introduced by King Charles IX in 1561. All the ladies of the Royal Court were given a spray of lilies by the King, as a “lucky charm”.

Portrait of Charles IX of France (1550-1574) painted by François Clouet between 1550 and 1572.
From Bemberg Foundation, Toulouse, France.

This former aristocratic tradition became more popular at the end of the 19th century when the French singer Félix Mayol pinned the flower to his jacket just before his first acclaimed performance in Paris on the 1st of May 1895.

Mayol and his band: poster by Adrien Barrère (1874-1931). Source : / Bibliothèque nationale de France.

In the early 20th century, the Lily-of-the-Valley was also linked to “Labor Day” which was officially established on the same date, the 1st of May, but in 1889!

Because this flower usually blossoms at the beginning of May, French people traditionally give Lily-of-the-Valley as a lucky charm to their relatives, friends – or less frequently from boss to secretary – as a mark of kindness, esteem or gratitude.

The 1st of May lily’s tradition is also very present in some other European countries such as Switzerland, Belgium and Andorra.

More information:

About Lily-of-the-Valley