by Frances West
When did May Day become a call for help, a signal that someone is in distress? Evidently the time is gone by when May Day was one of the happiest days of the year. When I was a child May Day meant that summer had arrived for sure and the end of the school term was just ahead. Three months with no books, teachers, or homework. What could be better than that?
About a week before the first day of May we young ones would start planning our May baskets. These were to be surprises for our friends and neighbors to let them know they were special. We would begin to save up any bright paper which we folded into cone shapes and attached a handle at the top. We put much effort into making this project, with lots of folding, cutting and gluing. The very best treasure we could find was a wallpaper catalogue, but these were rare. One or two stores in town sold wallpaper and so they would have the sample books to show the customers. Their beautiful squares of heavy paper made wonderful baskets which usually contained pop corn as filler and maybe a piece of homemade dandy and some flowers. Daffodils and bachelor buttons were in bloom at this time so all of our baskets looked pretty much the same. The point of the May Day baskets was to take them secretly to the friend or neighbor’s house, hang the basket on the door knob, knock on the door and then run. The receiver of the baskets was supposed to catch you and to give you a kiss. We would usually deliver them about dusk. I don’t remember anyone ever getting caught or kissed but that was the game.
Then the big decision of who would get which basket. Then, of course, if you were on the receiving end you would giggle and pretend to wonder who would give you a basket (all the while really knowing who it was). Sometimes you might get more than one. How exciting was that?
Such a simple and fun time with no expense, no worries, just a time to let friends know you care about them and they cared for you. I don’t know the meaning of May Day these days but if my doorbell should ring on May 1st evening I will be looking for a basket and prepared to give chase!