Here in the United States, May Day isn’t celebrated as widely as some other holidays. Many, I’m sure, have no idea what it is or where it came from. Let me help you with that! May Day began as an ancient festival to celebrate the return of spring, and lies halfway between the spring equinox and the summer solstice.
“As with many early holidays, May Day was rooted in agriculture. Springtime celebrations filled with dance and song hailed the sown fields starting to sprout. Cattle were driven to pasture, special bonfires were lit, and both doors of houses and livestock were decorated with yellow May flowers.
“Later, celebrations evolved to speak more to the “bringing in the May” with the gathering of wildflowers and green branches, the weaving of floral garlands, the crowning of a May king and queen, and the setting up of a decorated May tree, or Maypole, around which people danced. Such rites originally may have been intended to ensure fertility for crops and, by extension, for livestock and humans, but in most cases this significance was gradually lost, so that the practices survived largely as popular festivities.
“Have you ever heard of a May basket? People would leave a paper basket or cone with spring flowers and sweets on each other’s doorsteps, usually anonymously. This tradition was popular through the 19th and 20th centuries, especially with children or sweethearts. The custom was to knock on the door, yell “May basket!,” and then run. If the recipient caught the giver, he or she was entitled to a kiss.” https://www.almanac.com/content/what-may-day#
Though I never knew why we did it, my sisters and I used to present our neighbor down the road with a May basket. Mabel Huffaker lived alone at the last house on the street, her yard filled with Iris and other flowers. We did, in fact, call her the “flower lady” and it was only years later that I learned her real name.
She had other interests, including painting and ceramics and I would stop and talk to her on the way home from school if she was out in her yard. When I got a bit older, and she a bit frailer, she hired me to mow her lawn. She told me once that when she went downtown, she carried a rock tied up in a handkerchief to protect herself from mashers! She was a feisty old gal.
Even if you don’t have a need for fertility rituals or a kiss from the neighbor, you can still celebrate spring by giving a May basket, sending flowers, or planting a tree (yesterday was Arbor Day). HAPPY MAY DAY!