How many remember dancing in a circle while weaving long ribbons around a May Pole or making construction paper baskets covered with crayon drawings? Afterwards, flowers picked from the yard or a kind neighbor’s garden filled those paper baskets. Once you loaded your baskets with fragrant blooms, you sneaked from door to door to hang your homemade containers. At each house, you’d knock and then run like crazy to avoid detection. May Day was one of my favorite holidays from earliest childhood.
I loved cutting, coloring, and gluing together creative paper cones with my mother and my brother. Even more, I loved choosing the prettiest blossoms to assemble into fresh bouquets. They included everything from my favorite lilacs, to tulips, irises, yellow roses, chickweed and dandelions.
Once we finished our May baskets, we trekked door to door, carefully draping handles over a doorknob, knocking, and then running fast as our little legs would carry us. Naturally curious, we hid around the corner to see our recipient’s reaction.
We always thought we were so sneaky, but we’d hear an older person call, “Thank you, Karen or Thanks, Kent.” We’d giggle like crazy, knowing our target had caught us.
Once I had little girls, my neighbor and I introduced our four daughters to this tradition. Some years we made paper cone baskets and some years we used saved up strawberry boxes and wove string or left over ribbons between the slats to make them pretty enough to serve as May Baskets. The little girls loved roaming our yards picking perfect flowers for their surprise deliveries. Sometimes they filled their arms with blooms and other times they filled their little red wagon bed.
We lived outside of town, so we’d drive into town to deliver baskets to babysitters, Sunday school teachers, and two older gentlemen who were very kind to Ellis children. I don’t know that sneaky describes the girls’ approach to a door because they often stood on the sidewalk debating loudly who would hang the basket.
Rarely did our girls escape detection. It took too long to get four little girls into the back seat and buckled in, so our recipients often held baskets to their noses as they waved us on our way.
Each year, May 1 reminds me of May baskets I delivered and those my daughters hung on doorknobs. Had I planned such deliveries this year, finding blooms to fill my baskets would present a serious challenge. Because of the early spring, my lilacs and tulips have gone to seed. By Tuesday, my irises will have peaked. Lack of real flowers would force me to fill baskets with fake blossoms.
Despite the challenges a changing climate creates, May Day is a holiday worth celebrating with big and little kids. It encourages creativity, being outdoors, and giving without expectation of return: all worthy endeavors. Besides, it’s the one time it’s okay to knock and run.