A Boulangerie petit déjeuner started our day and probably the only thing that could take us out into the rain. A short walk around this beautiful riverside town and back to make more bookings, catching up on emails, local research and washing mud from our clothes and shoes. It’s May Day and mostly younger women and a mum with her boy are on streets of Figeac, under cafe awnings and umbrellas in the rain, selling flowers for the celebration explained below.

Labor Day / May Day in France
May Day (La Fête du Muguet, La Fête du Travail) in France is a public holiday to campaign for and celebrate workers rights. It is also an occasion to present lily-of-the-valley or dog rose flowers to loved ones.

People in many areas give bouquets of lily-of-the-valley or dog rose flowers to loved ones. This custom is particularly common in the area around Paris known as Île-de-France. Families with children in country areas get up early in the morning and go into the woods to pick the flowers. Individuals and labour organizations in urban areas sell bouquets of lily of the valley on the street on May 1.
Trade unions and other organizations organize parades and demonstrations to campaign for workers rights on May 1. People may also use these events to campaign for human rights in general, to demonstrate against racism or highlight current social issues. 

King Charles IX of France was presented with lily of the valley flowers on May 1, 1561. He liked the gift and decided to present lily of the valley flowers to the ladies of his court each year on May 1. Around 1900, men started to present a bouquet of lily of the valley flowers to women to express their affection. The flowers are a more general token of appreciation between close friends and family members these days.

The eight-hour working day was officially introduced in France on April 23, 1919, and May 1 became a public holiday called Fête internationale des Travailleurs (International Worker’s Day). During World War II, the Vichy regime renamed the holiday to Fête du Travail et de la Concorde sociale (Work and Social Unity Day). Between 1944 and 1947, there was no holiday on May 1. It officially became known as La Fête du Travail (Labor Day) on April 29, 1948. Since then, it has been an occasion to campaign for and celebrate workers’ rights. The day is also known as Labor Day in other parts of the world.

Jean-Francois Champollion seems to be a hero of this glorious town on the banks of the tree lined, stone walled River Lot. He, along with the help of Napoleon, championed the field of Egyptology where Napoleons war of the late 18th century unearthed many artifacts, and Champollion, an archeologist, deciphered their hieroglyphs.

Soon we will catch up with our Sydney friends and talk about France, walks and villages, as they also have a home in France and are heading off to walk in the Pyrenees tomorrow, while we will continue our journey to another part of the Pyrenees.