holiday

May Day

Sunday, May 01, 2011

May Queens
More lovely May Day photographs here


May first has come and gone without much to do here at the sea, just like any other day. It wasn't always this way for me, so my mother and grandmother reminded me, the first of May used to be one of my favorite days. As it turns out, May Day was, at one time, quite an occasion for many, and probably is still for some, but as a kid, I thought I was the only person in the world celebrating this lovely spring day. 
I was a little sad to realize that I had let this glorious day slip by unnoticed (my little kid self is shaking her head in disappointment) and so, in order to "preserve" a bit of my childhood and my May day traditions, I'll share them here. 


I think the suggestion to make a May basket came from my mom during a very long spring break. Most of my breaks from school were spent at the family business, Mom and Dad would work and I would entertain myself with all sorts of mischief around the feed mill. Well this particular spring break I was a little underfoot and so to occupy me, Mom suggested I make a May basket for my grandmothers, both of which lived next door to the family feed mill. My May baskets were always made of paper and filled with flowers picked from our garden at home, daffodils, tulips and fragrant hyacinths- or whatever happened to be in bloom on the morning of May first. 
Early on May day morning I would trot my baskets to both grandmothers houses, hang the basket on the door knob, ring the bell and run like crazy. Both of my grandmothers were good sports about the baskets, always trying to catch me and sometimes succeeding, always sure to ply me with kisses when they did.

This is one of those memories, like many I have of my childhood, that when shared with friends my age, is pretty unique. None of my friends made May baskets nor do they know the joy of ringing the door bell and running except for instances when they've left something utterly heinous on the door step. 

After poking around the internet a bit, I was delighted to find this account of May baskets that fits my experience perfectly! Of course it happens to come from a book published in 1908 but that's alright, just proof of how splendidly old fashioned my childhood was. What a great tradition this will be to pass on to my own children someday.


From School Arts, 1908



The Dew Collector- available on etsy


     I've mentioned this May day tradition before, but it's a good and downright silly one so here it is again.
       As a child I read about the power of the May dew in some book of faerie lore. My mother encouraged me to try my reading out, undoubtedly to once again keep me busy, and so the morning of May first not only found me collecting flowers for my baskets but collecting dew to rid my face of freckles.

   
    Again some more internet investigation lead me to the conclusion that I am part of a long tradition. And as many of us dewy face May day-ers can attest, and logic would suggest, May dew is indeed no cure for freckles.

 From Faiths and folklore: a dictionary of national beliefs..... Volume 2, 1905


from The Frank C. Brown Collection of North Carolina Folklore: Popular beliefs and superstitions from North Carolina, Duke University, 1952

Now I have never heard of the not speaking rule, and likely neither has my mother as I'm sure she would have loved to take advantage of that rule when I was a child, hehe. 



My two little traditions hardly scratch the surface of May day celebrations and I am eager to hear about how you usher in the month of May. Perhaps a bonfire? A dance around the Maypole? 
Or maybe a with a picnic and a bundle of flowers.
For more on that tradition check out This and That

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