By Sam Burbach, Education & Programming Coordinator – 04/29/2020

Mayday! Mayday! It’s almost May Day! As the weather warms and spring blooms burst open, it’s time to celebrate springtime with May Day on May 1st. This holiday was widely celebrated in the 19th and 20th centuries to mark the (just about) halfway point between the spring equinox and summer solstice, and more generally celebrate the new life and new growth in spring.  

Some traditional celebrations included dancing around a maypole covered in ribbons, crowning a May queen and king, and my personal favorite, the making of May baskets! The tradition of making May baskets was used to bring cheer to family and loved ones, or even let someone know you fancy them. 

May baskets can be as simple as a paper cone filled with flowers and sometimes treats. The giver of the basket would quietly hang the basket on someone’s door, knock, and then run away – it’s like ding-dong-ditch but you get flowers! When May baskets were given to a potential sweetheart, if the recipient caught a glimpse of the giver they were permitted to chase them down to steal a kiss! In modern times, May baskets are mostly given to neighbors, friends and family just to spread cheer (and not cooties!). 

Scientific research has proven that receiving flowers is linked to happiness, improved mood, and reductions in stress, anxiety, and depression. For this reason, I find that it is appropriate to give flowers any day, any time and for any reason, and I think that this May Day, more than ever, is the perfect opportunity to spread some floral cheer!  

An easy way to make a May Basket is to take a piece of colored paper, roll it into a cone and attach a piece of ribbon to use as a hanger. May Baskets can be filled with early spring flowers such as daffodils or even dandelions (perfect opportunity to get your kids to pick those suckers before they go to seed!), or you can make paper flowers to fill it with.  

In light of everything going on in our world right now, it’s the perfect time to bring back the giving of May Baskets and spreading of spring cheer, but we might need to do this in some different ways to ensure we’re staying safe and healthy. Here are some of my ideas on how we can safely spread some May Day cheer this year. 

  1. Sidewalk chalk: Cheer up walkers in your neighborhood by drawing flowers along the sidewalk. Or “give” your neighbors a May Basket by drawing one on their sidewalk with chalk.
  2. Paper Flowers: Create paper or tissue paper flowers and hang them in your windows for neighbors to see as they walk or drive by.  
  3. Spring Containers: Put together a spring container garden and place it on your front porch or by your sidewalk for all to see! Spring containers can include cold tolerant flowers such as pansies, violas, snapdragons, primulas, and ranunculus.  

Help spread floral cheer while bringing back the tradition of May Day this year! Happy May Day!

 

Share photos of how you celebrated May Day and tag us on
Facebook @KlehmArboretum and Instagram @klehm_arboretum_botanic_garden