Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Labor and lilies of the valley
On May 1, I asked the question of what in the world the link I posted about Labor Day and a sprig of lily of the valley had to do with one another.
Padre Mickey knows the answer already: they BOTH are directly related to the first day in May in France.
May 1, of course, is international labor day.
In France, it is also the day when people give each other (and when street vendors sell –the one day they don’t have to have a permit, unless the law has changed since I lived over there) a little sprig of lilies of the valley, or even a bunch (which can get pricey unless you have a source of the pretty blooms in the country somewhere) to bring happiness. (Bonheur, happiness, not chance, luck.)
May 1 has long been associated with flowers in various parts of Europe because of multiple pagan celebrations of spring – which Wiccans still celebrate, as various Celtic peoples did, as Beltane, May 1. Walpurgisnacht, the Germanic and Scandinavian equivalent, was the night before. (And is the reason that the Choral Society of Greensboro decided that half its early May concert program would be Mendelssohn’s Die Erste Walpurgisnacht, and let me tell you, it was fabulous – and really wild, with all manner of wizards and Christians and Druids and devils real and imagined darting through the woods and lighting fires.)
But the French lily of the valley tradition (take that blog author's insults to the labor movement with a pound of salt, her reporting on flowers is more to the point) is much more recent than the Old Religion and apparently not associated with it.
The origins of May Day, the International Day of Labor, are in the United States -- what deep irony, since the U.S. has abandoned May 1 as Labor Day and replaced it with the first Monday in September.
May 1, 1886, was the day of the strike for the eight-hour work day in Chicago, and led to the bloody Haymarket Riot. More on the origins of May Day here.
May Day as a U.S. labor day has been reborn, since last year, by popular action by and on behalf of immigrants who labor among us. The one-day "Day Without Immigrants" was the largest strike in U.S. history. Demonstrations took place all over the country and included documented and undocumented immigrants and their supporters. The one in Los Angeles filled Wilshire Boulevard. We even had one in Greensboro. (Sign of the times: Jane on cell phone from mid-demonstration in Greensboro to friend on cell phone in mid-demonstration in San Francisco. Didn't know for sure that he would be there, but guessed right and there he was.) (Another sign of the times: the little plastic American flags distributed to us at the Greensboro demonstration were ... made in China.)
The Immigrant Solidarity Network is here.
And the Simple Village Organist (right, same as I, the Simple Country Theologian [a.k.a. Just Your Friendly Neighborhood Ecclesiologist] and my friend the brilliant M.D./M.P.H. diagnostician in Boston who calls herself Just a Simple Country Pediatrician, and we are all the spiritual children of Senator Sam Ervin of Watergate Hearings fame, may he rest in peace, who, Harvard degree and all, was Just an Ol' Country Lawyer) has coined the lovely hymn line "citizens born, immigrant peoples" and more worship language adaptations here. (And no, I'm not putting the link up because he said nice things about me, but I do thank you, Ed ;-))
Photo by Jenny G. Bowen @ the Avant-Garde Patriot.