You could certainly leave a basket of flowers on a friend or neighbor’s doorstep any day of the year, but what better day to do it than May Day? A few years ago, I arrived home on May 1 to find a paper basket filled with paper flowers on my doorstep, and the simple thoughtfulness makes me smile even when I think of it today.
My own first attempt at a May Day basket also involved construction paper, but instead of paper flowers, I picked enough henbit and dandelions to completely fill the cone-shaped “basket.” The recipient, my mother, smiled regardless of my flower choices.
The giving of a May Day basket is best thought of as a celebration of spring and a considerate gift. The origins of May Day celebrations are disputed and vary in different countries, but most commonly is considered a celebration of spring. May Day is even a national holiday in many European countries. The holiday is celebrated with a range of festivals, bonfires, dancing, maypoles and even the crowning of a May queen.
To make your own May Day basket, be creative. Paper plates, doilies, egg cartons and cups make great baskets. A flat object like a sheet of paper can be rolled into a cone shape and taped, glued or stapled into place. Attach another thin strip of paper at the large end of the cone to make a handle, and voila! You have a paper basket.
Venture outside for some flowers from your garden. (Remember that flowers in the park and on the roadsides are for everyone to enjoy and should be left alone.) Spring temperature fluctuations make it hard to predict what will be blooming, and your bouquets may vary from year to year, but a few fresh flowers can go a long way. If you know your recipient well, they just might like a dandelion or two, or even the purple henbit that is filling the fields and roadsides this spring.
You can also fill the basket with nonperishable paper flowers. Cut flower shapes from construction paper or sculpt carnations and posies from tissue paper. Pipe cleaners make lovely stems and leaves.
Tradition says a May Day basket should be left on the doorstep, with a knock or ring to alert the recipient. In some cultures, a kiss is in order from the recipient to the basket giver, (if they can catch the giver as he or she flees) but I wouldn’t recommend attempting this unless you and the other person are on close terms.
If you hear me saying May Day, I’m not crying for help. I’m just getting ready to celebrate my favorite holiday.
— Jennifer Smith is the Douglas County Extension Agent–Horticulture for K-State Research and Extension. Contact her or an Extension Master Gardener with your gardening questions at 843-7058 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Check out links to May Day craft ideas:
Origami flower crafts:
Old-fashioned May Day baskets:
Things to make to celebrate May Day and spring: