May Day Traditions

  • Difficulty Rating: Beginner
May Day Traditions

I like learning more about holiday traditions and being able to pass on some of this information to my children.

Though their teachers at school go into detail about many holidays and festivals, it’s certainly no replacement for around-the-dinner-table discussions, the online researching as well as the inevitable crafting opportunities we can do as a family.

May Day in the US is not a holiday I knew much about but I felt I owed it to my children to be a little more informed, after all, they are pretty inquisitive people and like to ask me questions I don’t always know the answers to. When I read about the charming tradition of making and distributing May Day baskets, I knew that would be a great place to start the crafting. In many areas of the US people make beautiful May Day baskets, fill them with gifts or flowers, hang them on their neighbor’s front door and ring the bell before running away.

I don’t live in a neighborhood where this practice is recognized, but now that I know about it, this year may be a little different. For this May Day Basket, I used some beautiful cardstock by Bella Blvd from their Spring Flings and Easter Things collection and rolled one sheet into a cone, securing the edge with adhesive. I used some of their delightful floral stickers to decorate the cone and my Fiskars punches to make the paper rosette and butterflies. Punching a hole on either side near the top edge, allowed me to thread a length of ribbon and create a handle, ready for hanging on our neighbor’s door. The last step was to fill the cone with some beautiful spring flowers though I think some handmade jams or deliciously buttery shortbread would also be very welcome.

Growing up in England I danced around a maypole with my Brownie troupe so I showed my children some youtube videos of Maypole dancing, as it wasn’t something they had ever heard about. Of course, they immediately wanted to erect a 12 ft pole in our garden and dance around with friends and yards of brightly colored ribbons. Whilst I haven’t completely said no to their idea (I quite like the idea of resurrecting some of my childhood Brownie skills), in the short term I managed to curb their enthusiasm in the direction of a Maypole cake!

Cake

I used some Fiskars flower shape punches and some pins to decorate the outside of cake (make sure to remove these before eating!) but the thing that really grabbed my kids’ attention was the Maypole. I used a wooden skewer and taped lengths of colored ribbon to the top. The top of the Maypole is adorned with a felt flower and a few leaves. I tucked the loose ends of the ribbons under the cake plate and glued them in place. The kids really admired the creation…for a few seconds…before we dismantled it and demolished the cake.

Cake collage

Talking about writing this article to my mum, she reminded me that her mother (my grandmother) was crowned May Queen (quite an honor for a little girl in years gone by) and she showed me this photo which was taken in 1926 in London. My grandmother (aged 9) is sitting on the center throne with her little courtiers and loyal subjects surrounding her.

May Queen

Though the photo is 86 years old and fading, you can clearly see my grandmother wearing an elaborate May Crown of flowers on her head. My children were pretty fascinated with this old photo of the great-grandmother they never knew and my daughter wanted a May Crown too, so I decided to make her a felt version. Though a crown of real flowers would be beautiful, it would not last long in this house!

Crown collage

I used some scraps of wool felt in appropriately Spring-y colors and made an assortment of flowers and leaves. I used buttons for some of the flower centers and sewed them all on to a length of ribbon that I can tie around my daughter’s forehead. Dressing up is one of my daughter’s favorite things to do, and it warms my heart to think that she’ll spend some time dressing up as the May Queen, just like her great-grandmother.

I really enjoyed doing some of my own research into May Day and involving the children in the process. I wasn’t expecting to find ways to genuinely make the holiday our own, but I think that from now on, May Day in this house, will be celebrated with making surprise gifts, an abundance of flowers, memories of loved ones no longer with us and of course, cake. Yes, I think that the 1926 May Queen of Hilda Road School, East London, would have given her seal of approval on the cake.