Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A Family Tradition

Ever since I was a child we have celebrated May 1st as May Day by giving May baskets to unsuspecting friends. While living in Indiana, people were perplexed by my antics, not seeming to understand this tradition. It made me wonder if it was just a "Minnesota" tradition.

The tradition is actually derived from an ancient Roman and Druid holiday, which has endured and evolved for centuries. It is a celebration of spring turning to summer and traditionally a tall “Maypole” with ribbons woven around by dancers is what people think of. The giving of May Baskets came later and simply celebrates both the change of seasons and the joy of giving. Traditionally flowers are given in baskets, which dates back to pre-Christian Europe and is in tribute of Flora, the Goddess of flowers. I never knew the historical background to this tradition until I was researching for this post.

My mom introduced us to the giving of May baskets. We would fill a basket with cookies or something special and drive in our car to someone’s house. Mom would drop us off and we would leave the basket, ring the doorbell and RUN as fast as we could back to the car to hopefully avoid being caught.

As an adult, I have carried on this tradition with my children. It’s fun to hear the kids talk about what to put in the basket, what to write on the card and to plan how not to get caught! It’s a fun way to encourage someone and a good project to do with the kids.

I have done a basket like the one in the photo with pool/beach toys. I’ve done plastic picnic plates and napkins, candy, tea and many other things. We’ve given baskets to friends, neighbors and the elderly. I’m not at all crafty so I usually buy something inexpensive. One year I bought a pretty plastic bowl from Wal-Mart to use instead of a basket. If you are crafty, I have a few links with ideas to make your own May Basket at the end of this post

One of the reasons I like this tradition is that as I mentioned in my 100 things, I love to give gifts. Another reason is because I believe it’s important to encourage others. Many years ago when we lived in Kansas City, a man from our church named Russ had the gift of encouragement. He would send cards regularly to people with the sole purpose of encouraging them. I didn’t really know him, but I was blessed by his ability to uplift people through the gift of a card and kind words. It taught me the importance of encouragement. It is true that the devil’s most devastating tool is discouragement. It’s really quite simple to change a person’s day through encouragement. It can involve a text, card, e-mail, phone call or visit. Kind words can be so edifying. A May basket can be a neat way to encourage someone and to make their day.

Romans 14:19 ISV Therefore, let's keep on pursuing those things that bring peace and that lead to building up one another.

I’m tired of being consumed with my own troubles. I need this right now. When we encourage others it’s hard not to feel good ourselves.


Andree said...

YAY! Someone else who knows about the May Day surprise! We did this as kids in Illinois. We would pick wildflowers and deliver them to all the neighbors. ring the bell and RUN!! And as kindergartners we actually got to do a May Pole! It was so cool. Thanks for the fond memory recall:-) And knowing I didn't make up this "strange" holiday.

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