As an Anglophile, I’ve always loved celebrating May Day in true British style. For some, May Day is a workers-around-the-word day, but for my family, it’s a day to celebrate the true return of spring. Reveling in the first of May can be traced back to the Celts, Romans and Greeks, but modern day, spring-loving people all over the world can rejoice that the earth is awakening after winter. This is the perfect holiday for a farm child to observe because it’s all about spring frolic, homemade gifts and outdoor activity.
Traditional observations of this holiday include weaving flower garlands and hair wreaths, and singing and dancing around the maypole—a tall pole or stick tied with ribbons at the top that children use to weave patterns around the pole. One of my family’s favorite ways to celebrate is by rising early to leave surprise favors and flowers on neighbors’ doorsteps. Here are some tips if you want to incorporate this tradition into your May Day festivities, too.
The most traditional vehicle for delivering surprise treats to friends and neighbors on May Day is a basket, which is hung from their front door. You can make your own baskets from natural materials or colored paper. If making baskets seems too difficult, you can make a hanging paper cone from homemade paper. We decorate our cones with bits of homemade felt and some pretty ribbon. You can embellish your May Day cones with beads, stickers, glitter and anything crafty you have on hand.
The most joyful part of the delivery for my kids is the surprise of it all. It’s the one day besides Christmas that they’re willing to get up early. They throw on their robes, grab their baskets, and impishly run from door to door to hang their treats and dash away before the neighbors wake up. Sometimes we have to wait all day before we see that the basket has been taken inside but, somehow, that’s part of the fun.
Gifts to Include
We made several sheets of seeded paper (homemade paper with wildflower or herb seeds embedded inside), cut them up in equal rectangles and distributed them amongst our cones. We also included a small sheet of instructions on how to plant seeded paper.
Including whole seed packets is something we’ve done before, especially if we’ve saved the seed ourselves and know they grow well around us. I’d also like to try making seed bombs using the seeds from our fragrant white Four O’clock flowers that my daughter collected last season. Wildflowers are especially suited to seed bombs because they’re hardy and will usually grow in a range of garden soils.
If you want your friends to have something flowery to enjoy without planting, tissue-paper flowers would look lovely poking out the top of your cone. So would real cut flowers, of course! Consider putting the stems of any delicate live flowers into florist stem tubes—they’re not too expensive and will help preserve live blooms for longer, especially if your neighbor works long hours.
My son has had a lot of fun making paracord bracelets and keychains in scouts, and they make really great gifts for the boys on your block. Another thing my son enjoys making for the May Day baskets is origami. He’s made flowers, throwing stars and pinwheels. He’s an origami ninja! Your local library should have some origami books if you’d like to learn the art of paperfolding.
My girls are learning to do great things with beads and homemade jewelry. If you have a little girl on your street that loves those things, too, then try your hand at making some simple necklaces or hair clips. Some might require some adult supervision, but being creative together with your children is an excellent use of your time on May Day.
If you blow and decorate Easter eggs, save them and include them as gifts in your May Day baskets as simple ornaments.
Homemade and Homegrown Treats
Food is universally appealing. If you live where berries are ripe this time of year, include them as a tasty treat for the bottom of your May Day basket. Also try homemade fruit snacks or savory real-cheese crackers. Homemade marshmallows rolled in cocoa and wrapped in parchment paper are another option if you’re looking for something truly decadent but not too unhealthy. Or make organic honey caramels—seriously, these things melt in your mouth!
Whatever you choose to put in your May Day basket or cone, be sure to include a simple card to wish them joy in the season. Whether you sign it or leave it anonymous is up to you—your May Day surprise is safe with us.