How to Make a May Day Basket
May Day is an ancient tradition that celebrates the Earth’s fertile season, when flowers bloom and crops begin to grow. The Romans held the festival of Floralia, honoring Flora, the goddess of flowers. On the British Isles, Beltane—later called May Day—was celebrated on May 1. The story goes, that the night before May Day festivals, mischievous fairies came out and tried to lure humans away to their fairy land.
As part of Beltane, children created small baskets filled with flowers and placed them on the doorknobs of homes of people who were unable to attend the village’s festivities. Traditionally, the giver would hang the basket, knock on the door, and then run away so no one would know who left the basket.
Delight your neighbors or teachers with tiny May Day baskets, made from just a few simple items that you are likely to have around the house.
What you need:
- Watercolor, construction, or white printer paper
- Watercolor paints, colored pencils, markers, or crayons
- Clear tape or stapler
- Ribbon or string, cut into 18” lengths
- A hole puncher
- Any flowers or pretty greens that are growing outside*
- Paper towels or napkins and aluminum foil to wrap the stems of your flowers and greenery
* Stick to flowers that are in obvious abundance such as buttercups, clover, dandelions, or flowers from your own garden to avoid picking rare or endangered wildflowers.
What you do:
- Fold a piece of paper into quarters, and cut it along the lines to make four small pieces.
- Decorate each cut piece of paper with watercolor paints, colored pencils or markers.
- Shape the paper into small cones, and tape in place. Make sure the bottom of each cone is closed into a point.
- Punch two holes on either side of the top of each cone, about an inch from the top edge.
- Tie a ribbon or string through the hole of each basket to make handles.
- Go outside and gather some flowers and greenery.
- Wet paper towels or napkins, squeezing out the excess water.
- Place each wet paper towel on top of a piece of aluminum foil.
- Lay a small bunch of flowers on each of the paper towels, with the tops sticking up above the edges.
- Wrap the wet paper and foil around the stems of the flowers. This will keep them moist and prevent them from wilting. The foil will prevent water from soaking the paper baskets.
- Put your small bouquets inside your May Day baskets.
Your children can hang the baskets on the doorknobs of your neighbors or friends or on the doorknobs of their teachers’ classrooms at school. They can ring the doorbell or knock on the door, then quickly run away before each receiver of the basket knows who left it. Hmm…maybe they’ll think it was fairies!
Elizabeth Scholl is a New Jersey-based writer of children’s books and magazine articles, with a background in elementary education. Specializing in nature and environmental topics, her books includeOrganic Gardening for Kids, Grasshopper, Praying Mantis and Animals Attack: Wolves. When she isn’t writing, Elizabeth enjoys working in her garden, bicycling and and exploring nature in her neighborhood.