by Marilyn Quinn
After a long Teton winter (Can you guess I'm not a skier?), I get plenty excited when I finally turn the calendar page to May.
Did you know that the celebration of the first of May--also known as "May Day"--is an ancient tradition that honors the earth's fertile season? May Day's origins date back to the ancient Roman festival of Floralia, which honored Flora, the goddess of flowers. Back then, children made small baskets and filled them with wild flowers to hang on the doorknobs of the homes of folks who couldn't attend the party. How sweet!
When my twin sister and I were kids, we always made May baskets. And, our deliveries were not necessarily located close together in our rural farm community. So mom would pick us up after school and drive us around. Out of custom, we would hang the basket on the door knob, knock on the door, and then run away, leaving an anonymous token.
Making May baskets is a fun and creative project that instills tradition. I like to make my May baskets out of simple recycled containers: tin cans, jelly jars, or anything else that you can add ribbon or twine handles to.
Another idea is to cut a triangle out of colored poster board and staple it together, forming a cone. Then, add trim or ribbon to dress it up. Next, wrap the stems of fresh flowers or spring greenery in wet paper towels enclosed in foil (or a baggie) and insert them into the cardboard cone. This technique keeps the flowers moist and the cardboard dry.
Due to our fickle mountain weather, fresh cut, outdoor flowers may be in short supply around the first of May. Instead, purchase blooms from Jackson Whole Grocer or MD Nursery. Or buy a pony pack of pansies or violas and cut the plastic container into small units to place inside the basket. Crafty types can try making flowers from construction or tissue paper (a great art project to do with kids). And, if available, don't ever underestimate the beauty of dandelions picked by a child!
Really--anything goes while making May baskets. There are no rules! Candy, cookies, and homemade muffins provide an extra sweet offering. These days, it might also be a good to include a card that explains the tradition of May Day or add a tag that says “Happy May Day,” since not everyone is familiar with the occasion.
Of course May baskets can be given to anyone, but delivering them to elderly residents in nursing homes or hospitals is especially thoughtful and provides a good project for kids clubs. Older folks love seeing the smiling faces of children, while the act of giving fosters benevolence in the kids, too.
Marilyn Quinn lives on two wooded acres outside of Wilson, Wyoming where moose, flying squirrels, and fox frequently visit her yard.