Sunshine Abroad

The trials and rewards of French translation and beyond

[From the Archives] Le 1er mai

May 1st

May 1st is the only day in the entire year in France where no one works.  Buses don't run, newspapers aren't published, and garbage isn't picked up.  (For some reason, there's still going to be the market in Aubenas on Saturday, but I haven't figured out why.)

I just found out that's there's a tradition in France, for a celebration of spring on May 1st: to give muguet to people.  This is lily of the valley.  Now, there's something important to know about muguet, thanks to our good friend Wikipedia: "All parts, including the berries, of the lily of the valley are highly poisonous."  Thus the conversation between my landlord's wife and I just now, translated for your convenience:

Madame: "Here's some muguet for you, to celebrate May 1st."
Me: "Oh, thank you so much, they're beautiful."
Madame: "Just be careful, because it's toxic."
Me: "Uh...what?"
Madame: "You can put them in water and then maybe dry and press them to remember being here.  Just wash your hands after you touch them."
Me: "...You give toxic flowers to celebrate May 1st?"
Madame: "Yes.  Aren't they pretty?"

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