Working out this morning Crabby Jackie finished early and as she left she said “Goodbye ladies, see you Wednesday, which is May Day, so I will expect my May basket.” I had never heard of a May Day basket.
Several of the women started talking about getting them when they were younger. Turns out there was a tradition of filling a small basket with flowers and candy, hanging it on a persons doorknob, ringing the bell and running. An anonymous pretty treat without all the trauma associated with valentines day – brilliant.
I mentioned that I remembered a May Queen ceremony at my church when I was a kid but wasn’t sure it had anything to do with the basket tradition. I have a clear memory of this one event because my older sister was the May Queen. My mother and Aunt made her this lovely full length dress from a sheer, gauzy material with an orange blossom print overlay. It was the 1970’s so the dress was very flowy and vaguely old-fashioned looking with a high waist and a large bow in the back. My sister wore her long, straight hair parted in the middle and had crown of fake orange blossoms to wear on her head. To my six year-old eyes she was a beauty queen.
The point of the May Day ceremony my sister participated in was to crown the Virgin Mary statue because May was a celebration of Mary, not the pagan holiday it started out as, or the International Workers Day most people think of. Beltane (or Walpurgis Night) was transformed into a benign tradition with a maypole and garlands, rather than appeasing spirits and welcoming spring. May Day was more important than the vernal equinox in pagan rituals because it was when you put the animals out to pasture. How that became a ritual about the Virgin Mary I don’t know. Further investigation required.
It was nice to be reminded of my sister being chosen the May Queen even if I didn’t know what it meant then, and can’t quite figure it out even now. Spring is here and it’s time to go outside.
When I figure out how to post a picture from my phone to my blog I will update this post!