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Lesson Transcript

Hello, and welcome to the Culture Class- Holidays in France series at FrenchPod101.com. In this series, we’re exploring the traditions behind French holidays and observances. I’m Matt, and you're listening to Season 1, Lesson 5-Labor Day. In French, it’s called Fête du Travail.
Like other countries, France celebrates Labor Day. May 1 is the only mandatory non-working paid public holiday in France. Neither the bus nor the metro run, and all stores are closed. Only a few essential centers, such as hospitals, stay open. This public holiday is Labor Day. In this lesson, we’ll learn why and how French people celebrate Labor Day.
Now, before we get into more detail, do you know the answer to this question?
How did young men confess their love on May 1 in the past?
If you don't already know, you’ll find out a bit later. Keep listening.
In June 1889, the Second Socialist International Congress, or Internationale Ouvrière, gathered in Paris for the hundredth anniversary of the French Revolution. It elected to make May 1 into a day acknowledging the struggle of workers around the world, with its goal being the establishment of an eight-hour work day. In French, the eight-hour work day is called la journée de huit heures. This date was chosen to honor Chicago’s May 1, 1886 movement, in which first unions, then workers, went on strike in order to be granted an eight-hour work day. It was in 1947 that May 1 became a paid public holiday in France.
Following a proposition made by Raymond Lavigne, Congress decided to make May 1 a day of demonstrations with the goal being the reduction of the work day to eight hours. This demand was met, but the tradition of protesting for the rights of workers stayed. Each year since then, large demonstrations, or manifestations, take place all across France on May 1. The most important ones take place in Paris. French people demonstrate by marching in the street. They shout out slogans and carry placards which show their political ideas.
May 1 is also the day of lilies, or muguet. This custom started in 1561 by Catherine de Medici, when her son, the young king Charles IX, who was ten years old at the time, offered a sprig of lilies to the ladies in the room. This custom has stayed with the French people, and French people still buy lilies to give as gifts to loved ones on May 1. In fact, it’s not rare to see participants in the demonstrations wearing lily sprigs attached to their buttonholes.
A French movie called Premier Mai came out in 1958. A famous French actor, Yves Montand, plays the main character. The film tells the story of the extraordinary day that a father and his son go through on this public holiday. Be sure to check out this movie if you want to know more about this holiday.
Now it's time to answer our quiz question-
Do you know how young men confessed their love on May 1 in the past? Before the existence of the lily tradition, there was a tradition called Arbre de mai, which means “Maypole.” Young single men had to go to the forest on April 30 in order to cut down a tree and take it to the door of the young girl they wished to marry.
How was this lesson? Did you learn some interesting things?
In your country, how do people celebrate Labor Day?
Please leave a comment telling us at FrenchPod101.com, and we’ll see you next time!