Sunday, May 1, 2016

Today is Labor Day - In France

It's not called "Labor Day" in English, but "La Fete du Travail" or the labor festival or perhaps "union party time!"  It's a day for union members, trade union members, etc. to march.  This is extremely unlike the French who are rather inclined to more indolent activities than marching.  For example, the famous cinq a sept (5 to 7) set aside for a married man to pay a call on his mistress, enjoy her company and then head home for a leisurely dinner and a nice visit with his wife and kids.

So this burst of marching and (even more tiring) waving big banners are really not the enthusiasms of the French public at large.

Interestingly enough, the inspiration for this celebration of labor (as long as little of it is actually done) comes from America - Chicago, to be specific.  Few could ever confuse Chicago for Paris.  On May 1, 1886, some 35,000 Chicago workers walked off of their respective jobs.   When that news finally reached France, many a wise old head nodded and the owner said, "Damn!  Wish I'd thought of that!"

The French could counter that giving family, friends and passers by a small sprig of Lilies of the Valley (mugeuts) is very definitely "French" since back in 1561, King Charles the IX was given a sprig of them and he thought it such a charming custom that every May 1st, he handed out mugeuts to the ladies.

We happened to fly into Paris on a May 1st and were extremely surprised to be handed a little nosegay of lilies of the valley as we walked out of Customs.  We thanked the givers profusely, of course, but for all we knew they could have meant "You're next on the guillotine."

Because today is Sunday, there is much grumbling in France today.  La Fete du Travail has cheated thousands out of either a 3-day weekend or a paid holiday.  Try not to land today at CDG - the natives are not in a good mood.   No one would wish to be beaten to death by bouquets of mugeuts.

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