Archive for Thursday, April 30, 2009

A merry month: May Day baskets thoughtful gifts to celebrate

April 30, 2009


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

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:


Babaloo 8 years, 12 months ago

I was hoping that the changes in the Thursday Pulse would ammount to something more than the addition of 'arts and crafts'. This is spring, my favorite time of year and the time when I used to look to the LJW for hints and tips about how to improve my garden and my experience during the primary growing season. The last month of Thursdays in the Journal-World has been littered with human interest, out of town stories by people who have no clue about my particular climate and growing issues, and now construction paper flower baskets.

I'm confused, too. Am I not supposed to pick flowers growing on the roadside, or is that advice just related to anything but henbit?

May Day can be fun (what is it and why do we consider it a holiday BTW?) and I like Jennifer's enthusiasm but I didn't look forward to getting our of bed for my Thursday Pulse for advice on putting dandelions in an egg crate basket.

It's the last day of April and you haven't given us any gardening insight for more than a month. What gives? Will this last forever?


Alia Ahmed 8 years, 12 months ago

Giving May baskets is a wonderful tradition for my family and in the small town I grew up in. We would make our May baskets from construction paper or dixie cups, fill them with Spanish peanuts, pastel mints, and lilac flowers which are at their peak on May 1 in the western part of the state. We also wound a Maypole with pastel strips of cloth when we were in first and second grades. Thanks, Jennifer, for a nice reminder of a tradition from simpler times.

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