|How to Make a May Day Basket
May Day is the remnant of an ancient spring festival celebrating the fertility of nature. It is one of the year’s four
cross-quarter days, falling midway between an equinox and solstice. While the first of May is best known for its
traditions of dancing around the maypole and the crowning of the May Queen, my fondest May Day memories are of
making friendship baskets. Back when neighborhoods were rural and everyone knew each other, friendships were
celebrated with the giving of a May Day basket and making the baskets was a family activity. On the eve before
the first of May, family members would gather with scissors, glue, and paper to make pretty baskets. Then early
the morning of May 1st flowers were picked and candy sorted to fill the baskets which then were left anonymously
on the front steps of a friend's house. Though the tradition has faded, it still lingers in small towns and rural areas.
Families still labor over homemade baskets, fill them with treats and then sneak out to slip the basket on the
neighbor's doorknob, ring the bell, and run because tradition holds that if you were caught you'd be expected to
receive a kiss.
Start your own tradition by creating a May basket. They can be fancy or as simple as you want them to be. If you
are working with your children you can simply fold colorful pieces of construction paper to form a cone basket.
Secure the side with tape or glue and add a handle at the top. Decorate it with ribbon or paper flowers. Fill your
basket with candy, baked treats, or flowers and leave anonymously on a friend's, neighbor's, teacher's, or loved
one's doorstep. To keep it safe from marauding animals, if the handle allows, you can also tie it to the door handle.
A green and yellow basket
I wrote a letter to my love
And on the way I dropped it
Traditional May Day baskets were filled with flowers
picked from the garden or a neighbor's garden. You
can incorporate meaning into your basket by the
flowers that you choose.
Flowers that bloom in April:
Alstroemeria: friendship and devotion
Bachelor's Button: love
Delphinium: generosity and healing
Freesia: innocence and thoughtfulness.
Iris: communication, creativity, hope
Lilac: joy of youth
Peonies: good fortune and nobility of spirit
Ranunculus: you are captivating
Tulips: undying love
To Go A-Maying
Only a century ago it was customary for the young to
go a-Maying or to go out and gather blossoms for May
Day baskets before sunrise. Flowers and greenery
were gathered and brought in to decorate the houses
and villages with the belief that the vegetation spirits
would bring good fortune. Girls and young women
bathed their faces in the morning dew to prolong their
youth and beauty the year through.
DIY Woven Paper Basket
These woven baskets take more skill and more
imagination. They are made by weaving strips of
paper to form a basket.
You will need:
paper in whatever colors you would like your baskets
a stapler or glue
Directions: Cut your paper into strips. Lay out 4 of
the strips of paper you've chosen. This will be the
start of the bottom of your basket. Take 4 more
strips and weave them through the strips you've laid
out, over one strip and under the next. Slide the
strips tightly together, making sure the edges line
up. Fold up the strips sticking out the sides of the
basket. Each side should come up to the same height.
At this point it can be helpful to put a box in the
center of your basket, to support it while you weave
the sides. Weave the strip all the way around the
basket. When the two ends meet, tape or glue them
together, hiding the tape inside the basket. Repeat
making sure to alternate, the over-under so that you
create a checkerboard pattern with the strips from
the base. Keep repeating until you've reached the
top. Then tape or glue the ends of the base strips to
the top woven strip. Add a handle and fill with
flowers and treats.
DIY Strawberry Basket Craft
If you are working with small children you can use a
plastic strawberry basket and ribbon or paper.
You will need:
1 plastic strawberry basket for each basket you will make
construction paper or ribbon
a stapler or glue
pipe cleaner for handle
Directions: let your little ones weave a length of ribbon
in and out of the holes on the strawberry basket. Tie a
knot and trim the excess, or secure ends of the ribbon
If you are using construction paper cut it into strips that
are as wide as the openings in your basket. And let
them weave the strips in and out of the slots around
the basket. Trim the excess, and secure with glue.
To make a handle, cut a 1-inch-wide strip of
construction paper. Secure 1 end of the strip to each
side of the basket with a stapler. Instead of paper, you
may want to use a pipe cleaner, a strip of fabric, or
When you've got your handle in place, line your basket
with tissue paper, and fill with goodies.
May Day by Kate Greenaway