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French figures: The lucky May flower

In France these pretty little spring flowers have a political significance too.

French figures: The lucky May flower
Photo: AFP

Spring across Europe sees the blooming of the pretty white flowers of lily-of-the-Valley, known in French as muget.

But ahead of certain date you will see these blooms on sale everywhere in France.

The muget is sometimes also known as a muget de mai, and it's traditional on May 1st to give these flowers to friends and family to bring them luck.

Emmanuel and Brigitte Macron with their lucky May lily-of-the-valley plants. Photo: AFP

May 1st is a holiday in France, it's the workers' holiday and usually features large-scale demonstrations in the cities and you will frequently see marching trade unionists sporting an attractive lily-of-the-Valley sprig pinned to their jackets.

The flower's tradition goes right back to 1561. Apparently on May 1st that year France's King Charles IX was given a muguet flower as a lucky charm and liked it so much that he decided to offer them each year to the ladies of the court.

It's a sign of how important they are in French culture that ahead of May 1st 2020, when the country was still on lockdown as the Covid pandemic raged, the French agriculture minister took the time to reassure citizens that mugets would still be available at supermarkets.

 

This article is part of The Local France's 2020 virtual advent calendar – every day until Christmas we will be presenting you with a person or object that has a particular significance to life in France. 

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ADVENT

French figures: The true spirit of France

This is the incredible story about the teenage girl who became a symbol of France for the ages.

French figures: The true spirit of France
Illustration photo: AFP

The story of Joan of Arc – Jeanne d'Arc in French – begun like many fairytales do: an unlikely hero is chosen to accomplish a dangerous task.

Born around 1412, Joan of Arc was an illiterate peasant girl convinced that divine powers had decided she would fight the English army in France. 

She then did exactly that. 

This was during the so-called Hundred Years’ War, when English troops battled for territory across the country that is now France.

Joan of Arc liberated Orléans city from English forces in a legendary and decisive battle that paved the way for the later French victory in 1453.

Joan of Arc paid for her heroism with her life. She was captured and sold her to the English army, who burned her at the stake in Rouen, northeast France, around 1431. She was approximately 19 years old at the time.

But her short life left a lasting mark on France and in 1920 she was made a Saint. Almost 600 years after her death she is still commemorated and celebrated in France and her spirit is invoked during difficult times for the country.

Known today as “the Maid of Orléans”, Joan of Arc's silhouette is all over the city, ingrained on medallions on the street, cast into sculptures and painted on the boxes of Cotignac, an Orléans culinary speciality.

READ ALSO: Ten reasons why you should visit the French city Orléans

This article is the final instalment of The Local France's 2020 virtual advent calendar – featuring every day a person or thing that has a special place in French culture. To see the whole calendar, click here.

 
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