May Day Baskets

may

May 1st is a holiday that children celebrate here in the Midwest with the sweetest custom: they make home-made baskets, fill them with flowers and candy and deliver the baskets to neighbors. The gift is anonymous. It’s also the only time a child has parental permission to ring a doorbell and then run like the wind.

You can create a May basket out of empty soup cans or rolled construction paper. On my block, most of us simply used plastic or paper cups. We punctured holes in the sides to thread through simple handles of pipe-cleaner, ribbon or string.

What candy to put in your May basket? I used jelly beans and M&M’s. A lollipop. Gum drops. A single stick of Juicy Fruit gum. You only have a small container, so there should be just a few pieces of candy. Think of it as Halloween lite.

What flowers to put in your May basket? Just see what’s blooming around the neighborhood. The flowers that bloom in the spring, tra-la! We had Hepatica, Bloodroot, Anemones, Violets, Solomon’s Seal. There are all Midwestern wildflowers. Lily-of-the-Valley adds a delicious scent. You needn’t know the names of the flowers, just pick pretty posies. Feeling generous, you can cut a tulip or two from your own yard. A twig of any greening branch. Creeping Charlie exasperates those who want a perfect lawn, but the little purple flowers look pretty and the trailing weed drapes gracefully out of a child’s May basket. Any weeds are good. Throw in some grass, too.

Children love May day because part of the old-fashioned tradition is the special thrill of getting “caught.” The recipient is not supposed to know who gave this special present. My daughter used to be giddy with excitement at the adventure of it all. As she ran away, she would look over her shoulder as a neighbor would discover the basket and feign enthusiasm at a plastic cup of wilted dandelions.

I loved May day because it was a fun way to celebrate spring and establish a sense of community. The added plus was that for not-so-crafty moms like me, creating a May basket was such an easy (and inexpensive) activity. The May day basket appears make-do and amateurish. It’s supposed to. The gift itself is a spontaneous and child-like welcome.

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