As a little girl, the first day of May held one of my favorite family traditions. Along with my sister, my mother and I would make simple flower baskets by rolling sturdy paper into cones and attaching a small handle. Then, we filled the bottom of the cone with small candies before tucking in a handful of blossoms — often tulips and lilies of the valley — that we had snipped from our own backyard.

With our May Day baskets in hand, my sister and I became tiny, anonymous gift-givers. After hanging a basket on the front door of a neighbor or friend, we rang the doorbell and scampered away. The goal was to remain secret givers; if we were found out, we could be kissed by the one who found us.

It was a celebration of spring, and I adored the secrecy of leaving flowers and sweets on the doors of those I loved.

Historically, the first day of May, often referred to as “May Day,” has been recognized as a celebration of Spring, of life and growth. Parades, dances, and the art of twirling ribbons around a May Pole are all ways that the day has been — and continues to be — celebrated in various parts of the world. Although formal May Day celebrations may be less common now, acknowledging a season of life and abundance with friends and family is always worth celebrating.

Here are some simple and lovely ways to acknowledge May Day in our homes and with those we love:

Make May Day baskets.
Although my rendition of a May Day basket as a child was simple, the tenderness behind the construction of the baskets was a delight in itself. Consider making—or buying—simple bouquets of flowers for friends. Tuck a few sweets into the vase or basket and write a note thanking your friend for their kindness, their presence, and their love. You can leave the baskets on doorsteps or office desks anonymously or you can give them away, face-to-face. The goal is to bring a bit of spring and surprise to the recipient.

Send flowers to far away friends.
When our loved ones are far away, an unexpected bouquet can rekindle affection and gratefulness across the miles.

Take flowers to a local nursing home or hospital.
Flowers are always a welcome spot of color and joy in places that are too often full of sorrow. Stopping to have a conversation with a resident or thank a nurse would be an additional gift — to the recipient and to us!

Wear a flower crown or lei.
In Hawaii, May Day is officially “Lei Day,” where people often celebrate by giving one another flower leis as gifts. By wearing flowers, we acknowledge the beauty that is ever-present around us and help bring the colors and smells of spring indoors.

… acknowledging a season of life and abundance with friends and family is always worth celebrating.

Exchange small gifts.
You don’t have to give flowers or gift leis to acknowledge the changing of seasons. A small book or journal inscribed with a note, an art print celebrating spring — the options are endless. In this way, May Day becomes an opportunity to celebrate the blossoming of friendship on what can otherwise be a very normal day.

Host a May Day party.
You don’t have to put up a May Pole and dance around it, but a May Day tea or luncheon would be a delightful interpretation of this springtime festival. Alternatively, a dinner or bonfire with friends could also be a wonderful way to kick off the long summer nights and celebrations sure to come in the months ahead.

Do you celebrate May Day? How?

Image via Richard Douglas

2 comments

  1. I’ve been doing may day baskets with my 3 boys since they were tiny lads in a stroller. The first year we delivered to 5 families on our block and gave them small baskets of our home grown roses. 16 years later we continue this fun tradition- and have grown from 5 baskets to 30 small buckets of flowers left on doorsteps of friends and neighbors around our community. May 1 has become my favorite holiday! It’s about bringing Joy in unexpected small ways.

  2. I too have fond memories of making May Day “baskets” with my daughters as they grew up. We had a lovely elderly lady down the block from us and we would make sure to hang the basket, often made from those green plastic strawberry containers, ring the bell and run away. Our tradition was often hampered in our small Colorado mountain community with a late Spring. The lilacs were not yet in bloom some May 1st’s and we had to scamper around to find something to substitute for our favourite bloom. Thanks for the memory!

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