There were approximately 50 steps to the front door of my crush’s house. I scanned for the doorbell as I tiptoed up the stairs, planning my exit strategy. “I’ll meet you around the block,” my mom had said when she dropped me off two houses down.
My heart tap-danced against my chest. Mustering up as much stealth as possible, I set down a plastic cup, overflowing with treats, with my crush’s name stickered across the front beneath a sparkly pipe-cleaner handle. A few other makeshift baskets, filled with similar fare, sat uncollected on the welcome mat—a good sign. The doorbell glowed orange even in the sunlight. Dismissing the care with which I’d placed the basket I punched the bell and bolted, hurdling a flowerbed and cutting across the neighbor’s backyard and into the open door of my mom’s SUV. Safe.
Where I grew up, we celebrated May Day. Every year on May 1st, we commemorated our friendships and the promise of warmer weather with May Baskets, handmade baskets of treats we delivered to friends’ doorsteps as soon as school dismissed. Folklore had it that if you got caught leaving your gift, you’d suffer a kiss or a pinch from the other person. Though the festivities fizzled out once we arrived at middle school, May Day remains one of my fondest memories growing up. The exchange of simple but thoughtful gifts between friends (and at that age, the allure of competition) brought a certain joy that is often lost in the rush of our adult lives—the joy of showing and feeling appreciation.
May Day has a beautifully storied history. The holiday originated from pagan festivals honoring Flora, the Roman goddess of flowers, and Walpurgis Night, a traditional spring festival in Europe’s Germanic countries often observed with bonfires and dancing. As centuries progressed, the holiday lost its pagan affiliations and evolved into a commemoration of the spring or summer seasons, filled with festivities like Morris dancing, singing and weaving ribbons around a Maypole. While some traditions have waned, the day is still considered a national holiday in many European countries and continues to be commemorated with sunrise madrigal singing, breakfast barbecues, flowers and Walpurgis Night celebrations held the prior evening.
As we look forward to long summer days and upcoming beach vacations, May Day is the perfect time to partake in the enchantment of a unique cultural practice as well as demonstrate gratefulness for our closest friends. Use the holiday as a reason to put together a vibrant spring barbecue with friends or to wake up early and watch the sunrise with a loved one, coffee in hand. Or, capitalize on the opportunity to surprise those closest to you with a sweet gift, just because. Here are four ideas for “grown-up” May Baskets your friends will love—no ding-dong-ditch required.
A collection of home-baked treats. Make your favorite springtime sweets and package them in a thoughtfully updated May Basket, like these adorable chevron cookie bags from Etsy.
Fresh flowers. Gather up small bouquets of seasonal flowers at your local farmer’s market and arrange them in antique tin cans to hang on your friends’ doorknobs. I love Martha Stewart’s whimsical interpretation and DIY instructions here.
Handmade bags of loose leaf tea. Emily Schuman of Cupcakes and Cashmere featured a lovely Valentine’s Day gift idea that showed how to put together DIY Valentine’s tea bags decorated with a small, heart-shaped note. Update the idea for May Day with pretty pastel colors and a flower cutout, and learn how to make them here.
A handwritten note. This simple but lovely gesture never fails to inspire in our email and social media-filled days. Find beautifully colored cardstock in bulk in stationery stores like Paper Source and leave a note somewhere your friend will stumble upon later in her day.
Photo by Morgan Johnson