Monday, May 12, 2008

When The Bells Toll

muguet or lily of the valley in our yard

I should have posted this on the first of May, but our lily of the valley or May bells (Convallaria majalis, muguet in French) gave us this single “stalk” or raceme of flowers only recently. I wanted to write something about it on the said date because the French celebrates Labor Day with this flower to bring luck for the whole year. But then, as I’ve said, our muguet is a late bloomer *chuckles.*

I’m not really sure about the relation between muguet and labor. All I know is that the flower usually blooms around the first of May. So maybe that’s why they used it as a symbol. In any case, it’s supposed to bring luck (although some would argue that only a raceme with 13 flowers is the real McCoy) and the tradition can be traced back to the renaissance era when Charles IX offered it to his courtiers as a symbol of good fortune. And I believe it’s not only the French who appreciate the blooms, for in 1982, it became Finland’s national flower. (source: wikipedia)

Well, lucky or not, I like muguet for its fragrance… a bit musky with a tangy note. It really is a good spring scent for it would certainly put a spring in your step :), as if you've just had a refreshing shower on a humid day. Incidentally, its extract, or at least,its synthetic counterpart is used in soaps, perfumes and other household products. And I like its bell-shaped flowers --- very appropriate for it tolls the coming of sunny, bright days. The color and the size of the flowers adds more daintiness and charm to its already delicate heady scent. And against the greenness of its leaves, I think it is spring personified.

They’re perennial plants (meaning you only plants them once, and voila! you'll have them for a long time --- no more planting every spring/autumn), multiply and grow easily even at a height of 2000m above sea-level. So I believe they’re ideal for those who don’t have much time to do gardening. In spring, you have these little white scented flowers and in autumn, the flowers turn into tiny bright-red berries that look so delectable. Be careful though, for it is toxic and the plant can be invasive for its rhizomes and spread extensively if left unattended.

Muguet is also called Our Lady’s tears because it supposed to have been borne from Virgin Mary’s tears as she mourned Jesus at the cross. Others say it is the drops of blood of St. George as he slays the dragon to save the princess and consequently the whole city for the dragon’s lair is where town’s source of water is located (source: wikipedia).

I think the beauty of the flower deserves such compassionate and chivalrous legends. There's something in the purity of its color, the delicateness of its scent and the fragility of its appearance that call out to the Muses and bring out the poet in us.


Padparadscha said...

I think the relation between "muguet" and labor is this : everybody is allowed to pick up muguet in the forest and sell it , it's a tradition (don't forget rivers and forests belong to the State).

And so, the French Communist Party used to sell muguet on that day to finance the party. Nowadays everybody does it.

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