May 1st (May Day) is known worldwide as Labour Day, la Fête du Travail. France also celebrates it with demonstrations, trade union parades and lilies of the valley. This little white flower is considered as a porte-bonheur (lucky charm): it actually works like that, as 1st of May is a jour férié (bank holiday), since 1870, and so people are lucky to have that extra day off work. Bad luck this year, the 1st of May happens to be on a Sunday. No compensatory session on Monday in France!
On the other hand, people are also fortunate to be allowed to …work for free: that day, everyone is indeed permitted to sell muguet (lily of the valley) in the streets, without paying any kind of tax. All the profits of the sale go to the one who did the job, but there are a few conditions: the flowers must be picked in the forest, where they grow in huge amounts at that time of the year (no way to buy them somewhere else and resell them!); sellers must stay at a decent distance from a legal florist (from 40m to 150m, depending on the local regulation) and the flowers are to be sold as they were picked (no wrapping, no other flower to go with). Last but not least, sellers are not allowed to bother passersby for a sale.
Following a tradition that started in the XVIth,century with King Charles IX, people treat each other with a brin (sprig), or even a small bouquet, of lilies of the valley on the 1st of May. Whether you believe or not in lucky charms, by buying and offering a flower, you will make at least two people happy!
Noms composés (compound nouns)
Porte-bonheur is a noun made of the verb porter (to carry) and the noun bonheur (happiness) linked by a trait d’union (hyphen). The tricky part is usually the plural of this type of word. According to the new spelling rules, the hyphen is kept and only the second word gets a ‘s’: des porte-bonheurs.
Adjectifs numéraux (numeral adjectives)
To write the date, the French language uses the cardinal numbers (nombres cardinaux), except for the first of the month when the ordinal number (nombre ordinal) is chosen:
Le 1er (premier) mai, un brin de muguet porte bonheur. Le 2 (deux) mai n’est pas férié. (the 1st of May, a sprig of lilly of the valley brings luck. The second of May is not a bank holiday).
Concerning the ordinal numbers, those showing an order, a hierarchy, the following abbreviations are usual:
1er /1ère, premier/première (first)
2e/2ème, deuxième (second)
3e/3ème, troisième (third)
4e /4ème, quatrième (fourth) etc.