Thursday, May 01, 2008

May Day

"There was a time when May Day meant sentiment. It was preceded by a busy week when young fingers were weaving baskets and small cornucopias out of colored paper. Between spells of basketmaking, scouting expeditions were made to the woods and fields, to see how the season went with wild flowers. And at least one trip was made to the candy store.

On April's last day, as late as possible, the scouting expeditions were followed up. Purple violets, preferably those big, dark, long-stemmed ones which grow at the edge of the swamp, were picked. Dogtooth violets were gathered. and windflowers, if any were to be found. Spring beauties were sought, and Dutchman's breeches. And the most delicate of young fern fronds were gathered for garnish. All were carried home in the dusk and stowed carefully in cups and glasses of water.

May Day morning called for early rising. In the bottom of the basket or cornucopia were put a few jelly beans left over from Easter, a few gumdrops, and at least one heart-shaped wafer candy printed with coy words of affection. Then the flowers were added till the basket brimmed with beauty. And at last, before breakfast if possible, the trip was made to Her house, where the basket was hung on the doorknob. The bell was rung and the basketer ran like mad, to hide around the corner until She came and found the tribute.

That was May Day, in the morning, when there was sentiment in the date. The candy might be cheap, the flowers somewhat wilted; but the sentiment was real. What ever happened to it, anyway?
" --Hal Borland, Sundial of the Seasons

The closest I've ever been to finding a May Day basket outside my door was the year I had my 2nd graders make them for the other teachers at our school. Paper plates, tissue paper flowers and gumdrops... and a school full of happy smiling teachers at the start of the day.

Does anyone still make May Day baskets? Anyone remember them? Stories please!

7 comments:

John said...

I don't remember making May Day baskets in school, but it's possible we did. I'm sure we did something for the first of the month. Since I went to Catholic schools, our monthly activities tended to revolve around things like May Crownings (or Mother's Day). But neither of those are particularly strong associations for me. Ever since I learned about the history of the labor movement I have tended to associate the date more with that theme.

Rabbits' Guy said...

Dog gone it now you've gone and done it ... every April I think - Boy I ought to do some May Day flowers - and then I don't :<(

But .. as a kid we did do them just as described, except for a teacher and Mom ...

Next Year for sure!

Dr. Know said...

Closest I've ever gotten to a May basket is a flaming bag of poo - on Halloween. As for the final efforts in the May Basket ritual, sounds awfully like the prelude to a stalking charge. Ah, I suspect modern society has taken its toll on innocent tradition...

On a brighter note, literally, while returning from a trip to the Borg this evening to look at patio stones, unknown assailants had placed some 20 odd fluorescent pink flamigos on a neighbors lawn, accompanied by a sign which read, "You've been flocked".

I'm concluding they have teen-agers at home...

ncmountainwoman said...

Oh yes, I do remember making May Baskets. In fact, I remember big May Day celebrations at school. The 8th grade girls got the honor of plaiting the May Pole, wearing matching pink, blue, or yellow dresses. I did so long to be one of them. Alas, we moved before I got to 8th grade and my new school hardly noticed May Day. I still feed cheated. I know I would have been great at moving those ribbons in and out, over and under.

bobbie said...

I do remember making May Day baskets. We did that for several years. Then when we reached high school, May Day became the day our parents came to watch us race and do exercises, and one lucky group got to dance around the May Pole while the rest of us sweated in our gym clothes.

dguzman said...

It must not be a hispanic thing, Laura; I've never heard of them.

Of course, I know all about Cinco de Mayo....

Bevson said...

Now that is something I have not thought about in years. I remember making one for the neighbors on our block. They were just flowers no candy. Of course, we picked them from their own yards. The Chemistry teacher's wife loved hers; she did have flowers in her yard. Sigh. No one does them any more.