When I was in elementary school, we had a tradition of making May baskets out of paper cups. We would poke two holes in each cup, attach pipe cleaners to the holes to make basket handles, and then we would fill the cups with either flowers or simple treats. We would make these baskets every May 1st, and we would take them all over town and hang them on the door handles of people we knew.
One of my favorite parts was ringing the doorbell and running away. The tradition behind the giving of May baskets said something about running away so that you wouldn’t be caught. If you got caught, the person who caught you was allowed to give you a kiss. We didn’t participate in the kissing part of the tradition, and we would usually hide just around the side of the house. We’d allow the basket receiver to be confused, and then surprised to find goodies, and then we’d pop out and say, “Happy May Day!”
Making and delivering May baskets was so much fun for me when I was growing up that I continued the tradition with my own children. We make May baskets and we deliver them to our neighbors, and to anyone we know who might be cheered by the delivery of a basket of goodies. Quite often we fill our baskets with popcorn and M&Ms. Sometimes we use plain paper cups. Other times we decorate cups. One year we folded paper to make beautiful baskets. Every year, it is a lot of fun.
With May Day rapidly approaching, I decided to ask on Facebook and Twitter if making May baskets was “a thing” in each person’s area. I knew that the making of May baskets had dwindled in popularity, but I was absolutely shocked by the results of my polls.
Out of 194 votes on Twitter, 93% of people said May baskets were not “a thing” in their area. 93%!!!
The results on Facebook were much the same with 88% voting “no” and 12% voting “yes” about May baskets being “a thing” in their area. While I expected many people to say that they did not make May Baskets, or that May Baskets were not a popular tradition in their area, I did not expect the number of people who told me they had never heard of May baskets before.
May baskets were once a tradition many people participated in as a way to welcome spring and share joy and love with others. Some have suggested that the decline in making and sharing of May baskets corresponds to a decline of “innocence” in the United States, though I am not sure that is the reason. Regardless of the history of the tradition or the reason for its decline, I wanted to share with you some reasons why I’d like to see the sharing of May baskets make a comeback (though I share the sentiments of the author of the piece above in hoping the practice never becomes commercialized).
- It’s fun. Every year I look forward to making May baskets. The idea behind May baskets is so simple that there’s no pressure to outdo yourself year after year. I’ve made cones out of paper. I’ve used paper cups. This year I’m making baskets for the childcare center at my church by attaching ribbons to a packages of goldfish crackers. May baskets are supposed to be simple, inexpensive, thoughtful ways to show you care, and because of that, it’s a lot of fun with very little in the way of social expectations attached. My kids look forward to making May baskets every year, but even when they were too little to help, I made May baskets myself. Why not? It’s fun!
- It’s inexpensive. May baskets are simple by design, so they only cost a lot of money if you are trying to find ways to spend. Our May baskets usually consist of popcorn and candy, but they can be filled with wildflowers you have gathered or a simple treat you have made. No need to spend a lot (or any) money on the baskets. You could roll up newspaper, a pretty magazine page, or even old school papers your kids made that you aren’t intending to keep. Take a look around your house before deciding to make your May baskets. Use your imagination and creativity, and not just your money. (Side note: while I hope that May baskets make a comeback, I hope we will all collectively resist the commercial impulse. May baskets won’t be May baskets anymore if they become another way to try to outdo each other every year.)
- It makes people happy. Every year as we deliver May baskets around our neighborhood, I can’t help but notice the way a simple thought and gift brings a smile to people’s faces. As far as May baskets are concerned, it’s really the thought that counts. You don’t have to be a top notch baker or a super creative and crafty type to bring a smile to someone’s face.
- It takes us outside of ourselves. This may not be a problem for you, but I know I struggle with getting stuck in my own head and in my own world. It is so easy to get wrapped up in the busyness of the calendar or to-do lists. May Day is an invitation to take a moment and think about the people around you. Is there a co-worker you haven’t had a chance to get to know? Do you know someone who recently lost a loved one? Do you have neighbors you don’t yet know their names, but you’ve been too embarrassed to ask? Or maybe you just want to share some joy with the people around you for no particular reason at all. May baskets are a great way to do something tangible for someone else and get outside of the busyness or concerns of our own life.
- It works against loneliness and isolation. So many people feel lonely and isolated that loneliness has been called an epidemic by many researchers. May Day is a great excuse to reach out to someone you haven’t had the courage to talk to before. Those little opportunities can be the seed to forming a new relationship or getting to know someone a little better.
My five reasons may not be enough to convince you to try going Maying, but I hope you’ll consider finding some small way to reach out with love and joy to friends, neighbors, relatives, or really anyone in your life who could use a smile. Here are some May baskets we’ve done in the past.
Are May baskets something you have done before? If so, I’d love to hear about your experience! Want to give May baskets a try? If you try them out, I’d love to hear how it goes for you.