Every year on May first one of my oldest friends e-mails me and asks me if I remember the May baskets. How could I forget! There were 10 of us within four years of age living in the same city block or right across the street. We all attended the same elementary school except for the two that went to the parochial school. The best part was that we all lived right next to the city park, played together constantly and were a very close group! May Day was one of our favorite activities! It was as big as buying Christmas presents for everyone. For days we would be busy making our May baskets, choosing carefully the candy to put in them and then waiting. As soon as school was over we would rush home, cut flowers from our gardens, assemble the baskets and be on our way. You would see children on every block in Manhattan, Kansas placing May baskets at the door, ringing the bell and running away. Our tradition was that if you caught the deliverer you got to kiss them. (That’s how I don’t forget May Day, I still have a scar from catching my friend and him giving me a nice scratch instead of a kiss. :O)
Of course having such fond memories of May Day I was anxious for my children to enjoy it as well. After a few years of not being able to make it a tradition among their friends we finally gave up. Once again we had to make our own tradition.
We started when we lived in Montclair, Virginia. On May 1st we would go to Annapolis, Maryland for the annual Garden Club May Basket Competition. Every business would participate and many of the homes joined the annual tradition. The baskets were unbelievable! My favorite was a birdbath in a churchyard that was transformed into a basket. If I ever visit Annapolis again it will definately be on May 1st! After we moved to Alabama we delivered May Baskets to our elderly neighbor and one year, she left baskets at our door. Melanie and Levi were thrilled. And I thought, finally!
Growing up during the Cold War, I am surprised we were allowed to celebrate May Day with its communist background. We saw it as a Celebration of Spring, not a day for political protest. Also known as International Workers Day, May 1st is an national holiday in many countries. In an effort to minimize its communist association, the day has also been home to a feast day of St. Joseph the Worker (designated byPope Pius XII in 1955) and in 1958 both Law Day and Loyalty Day (designated by President Eisenhower). Whatever its beginnings, the children of Manhattan, Kansas saw May Day as the Celebration of Spring and Friendship.
This year, I got a May Basket. One of my students read my reminissing about May Day on our classroom website. It totally made my day. I was so thrilled with the sweetness of the gesture that I quickly took a picture and posted it on Facebook where I tagged all of my childhood friends. That in turn brought comments of our days in the neighborhood and our May Baskets. One act of kindness brought memories and happy thoughts to many!