1st May, the Fête du Travail in France [fr]

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Photo: Suzanne Bonnefond

Since 1947, the Fête du Travail, on 1st May, has been a paid public holiday in France. It is a legal requirement that on this day, all employees are entitled to a paid holiday. Traditionally a day on which trade unions protest in large cities, it is also la fête du muguet (Lily-of-the-Valley Day), on which it is customary to exchange lily-of-the-valley flowers for good luck.
Origin in France

In 1793, in his report on the calendar presented to the Convention, Fabre d’Églantine established a public holiday, with Saint-Just later setting a date, 1st pluviôse (fifth month of the French Republican calendar). In 1848, the provisional government of the Second Republic abolished slavery (27th April) and a decree established a public holiday in the Colonies.

1st May, journée internationale des travailleurs (International Workers Day)

On 1st May 1886, under union pressure, 200,000 American workers won the right to work an eight-hour day. But this battle was not won by all workers, and riots broke out in Chicago. Three years later, le Congrès international socialiste (the International Socialist Congress) in Paris adopted the 1st May as “International Workers Day” and initiated the international campaign for the eight-hour working day. On 23rd April 1919, the French senate sanctioned the eight-hour day and remarkably made 1st May a public holiday. 1st May has since remained an international day of workers demands, resulting in protests.

1st May, a paid public holiday

After having been officially named the “Fête du Travail et de la Concorde sociale” (day to celebrate work and social harmony) on 27th April 1941 under the Vichy regime, the measure was taken by the post-liberation government in 1947 to make the 1st May a paid public holiday, without actually officially naming it the Fête du Travail.

1st May, Fête du muguet

It is customary to exchange lily-of-the-valley flowers on 1st May. The tax system is relaxed, remarkably allowing for trade without formalities and taxes.

Last modified on 01/05/2013

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