Once upon a time, the first day of May evoked good tidings and sweet little gifts for loved ones and neighbors, from those weary of winter and thankful for spring. Today, May Day is a somewhat forgotten holiday (except by those who still dance around the maypole). Perhaps the sweet tradition of giving May baskets is ready for a reboot.
Like all May Day observances, May baskets were used to commemorate the turn of chilly and rainy months into warmer and happier ones. The tradition dates back to pagan rituals in the 12th and 13th centuries in Germany and some records even place it as far back as revelry around Flora, the goddess of flowers, in ancient Rome. Regardless of when it began, flowers have remained a symbol of the spring celebration.
The Popularity of May Day grew in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The traditional gift was a small basket, often handmade, with a few flowers and trinkets or other homemade treats, sneakily hung on the front door handle.
At one time, it was also common for boys to leave a May basket on the door of the girl they were especially smitten with and then run away. If the recipient opened the door to see her admirer running away, she could chase him down and give him a little kiss. It’s sweet that this tradition was kept for such a long time because its innocence and charm speak of a much simpler time. It seems likely that if someone tried this tradition today there could be trespassing charges filed.
I don’t know about you, but the innocent giving of a May basket seems like a lovely tradition that could benefit us all. So, on April 30, consider creating a May basket (or maybe a bunch of them) to hang on your neighbors’ (or your truelove’s) door.