May Day is an ancient northern hemisphere spring festival and public holiday usually celebrated on May 1. It is also a traditional spring holiday in many cultures. Dances, singing, and cake are usually part of the celebrations that the day includes. This day includes a kind version of “Ding-Dong Ditching” where the participant approaches the door, hangs a basket of some sort containing flowers and sometimes treats on the door knob, rings the doorbell and quickly runs away, sometimes watching from afar to see who answered the door. The tradition was supposed to be that if you caught the person who left the basket they had to give you a kiss. It’s a sweet ritual of spring that has origins in Roman times, when it was the Festival of Flora, the goddess of flowers. Over the centuries many cultures have co-opted May Day for other celebrations, and while all of them include a maypole, some of them are decidedly less than sweet.
In modern times more than 80 nations recognize May 1 as Labor Day, declaring it International Workers Day to mark the 1886 fight for the 8-hour work day.
Even though modern lifestyles don’t really support the practice of leaving things on people’s doorstep anymore, we like the idea of reviving the tradition of remembering special people with flowers and sweets on a spring day. We all know someone who might be in need of a May Day boost – a grandparent, neighbor, friend, or teacher whom we can present with a small surprise that lets them know we are thinking of them.
Here are a few May Day basket ideas:
- Peat pots dampened with water and filled with pansies and put in plastic lined paper cups, tins or ramekins. The flowers can be popped out and put directly in the ground, still in the peat pots.
- Cellophane bags with seed packets in them – choose seeds that can be planted directly in the soil after danger of frost has passed.
- That old standby, chocolate (keep the chocolate out of the May Day sun though – now we understand why everyone used to give popcorn!)