By Mary Nell Jackson, HSA Member
The sweet innocent times of youth when everything is new and exciting is how I remember May Day celebrations with my mother and sister in Paris, Texas. As spring approached Mother saved tin cans and pretty ribbons in a special place in the pantry. These would create our May Day baskets.
During that time she’d tell the story of May Day and Maypole dancing and read a children’s book from the 1930s with beautiful pictures of children dancing around Maypoles and May Day baskets filled with the enchanting flowers. My sister and I were intrigued enough that we longed to dance around a Maypole. (Alas, we never did.) We did, however, create May Day baskets to share with the members of Mother’s Gift Club.
Mother’s best tool for the baskets was an ice pick that she wouldn’t let us use. She used it to pierce holes in the tin cans or she used a can opener to punch a triangular cut out. We used these holes to string ribbons so we could hang flower-filled cans on door knobs of Mother’s friends.
I remember a few years when we covered the cans with floral wallpaper samples or paper dollies; mostly we left the tin cans uncovered. Some of our friends made paper cone for holding flowers, but the recycled tin cans made the best and most economical May Day baskets.
On the last day of April we gathered flowers, herbs and greenery from our garden, no purchased flowers for this effort. (It was, after all, the 1950s and being thrifty was the way to create our baskets.) We kept the plant material well-watered in a big tin tub overnight.
Very early on May Day we assembled the little posies and we tied ribbons and bows to each tin can. We put a small amount of water in the cans, enough for transporting. Then we put in the flowers.
The fun began when Mother drove us to each house. We ran up to the front door and carefully hung the May Baskets on the door knob. Then we rang the door bell and ran breathlessly to the car before we were discovered. It was the best of times!
This tradition has all but ceased in the United States. Our grandmothers might recall the day of “to go a-Maying.” Their recollection might include a suitor catching them and using a kiss as “punishment.”
This year if you are so inclined create a few secret May Baskets and gift your friends with these tokens of friendship to honor May Day, it will be the best of times.
Modern times offer fun options for creating a May Basket. Some of the recycled examples I used and pictured here are: a favorite bottle, a basket from my collection, and a tin can just for old times sake. I think they turned out very festive. Use only the flowers and herbs you can gather from your own garden, which makes a fun, challenging bouquet. You will be surprised to discover all the beautiful flowers, greenery and herbs that grow in April.