Popular through the 19th and 20th centuries, especially with kids or as a romantic token of love, May Day traditions mark the return of spring and the renewed gift of life. Still practiced in discrete pockets of the world, the curious custom went something like this: At the end of April, people would begin gathering flowers and other goodies like cookies and candies to put in their May baskets. Then when May 1st came around, they would anonymously leave a homemade May basket on the doorstep of friends, neighbors, and other loved ones. The custom was to knock on the door, yell “May Day Basket!,” and then run.
So who’s in to bring the May Day Basket custom back?! This is a perfect (socially distant approved!) way to share some love with your friends, family, and neighbors on these long and sunny days.
What is May Day?
In the Dark Ages, ancient Celts divided their year by four major festivals, one of which was Beltane. Representing the first day of summer and celebrated with bonfires to welcome the new season. This became better known as May 1st or May Day.
In the UK, May Day was associated with fun, revelry, and even fertility throughout the centuries. It was often marked with people from the village dancing excitedly around a maypole to celebrate the selection of the May Queen with Jack-in-the-Green, a relic from when their ancestors worshipped trees at the head.
When Oliver Cromwell and his Puritans took control in 1645, May Day festivities all but vanished. They described maypole dancing as ‘a heathenish vanity generally abused to superstition and wickedness’ and legislation was passed to ban village maypoles throughout the country.
Dancing didn’t return to the village greens until the restoration of Charles II helped cement a massive 40-foot maypole in London’s Strand, which signaled the return of fun times and remained standing for almost fifty years. To this day, May Day is still celebrated in many areas with the crowning of the May Queen.
Make It Your Own
Nowadays, finding new ways to treat and pamper those you love really goes a long way – and making your own version of a May Day Basket is so easy to do! We love the idea of combining fresh flowers with delicious treats, like all of your favorite Walkers Pure Butter Shortbread cookies! Here’s some inspiration to get started.
• Basket or container of your choice (we chose a carton made from recycled paper)
• Fresh flowers
• Walkers Shortbread Rounds Snack Packs
• Clothespin or cardholder
• Personalized card
• Clip the stems of your flowers. Arrange them inside your basket around the edges according to the desired placement and size.
• Place a Walkers Snack Pack (or two!) in the center of your basket. Add other goodies of your choosing like a lightly scented candle, their favorite tea, or something completely personal and unique that your loved one will enjoy. Gently arrange your center items with the natural positioning of the flowers to ensure everything is secure.
• Take your marker and write a personalized message on the card. Something simple can go a long way! You can either sign your name or remain anonymous to keep them guessing.
• Attach the card to the basket with your clothespin or desired holder.
If you’re making more than one easy May Day Basket, just repeat the steps above and alter each one slightly depending on your unique preference. There are several delicious Walkers Shortbread snack pack options to choose from such as our Shortbread Fingers, Gluten-Free Shortbread Rounds, Salted Caramel and Milk Chocolate Chunk Shortbread, Stem Ginger Cookies and White Chocolate and Raspberry Cookies, the list goes on!
Find your favorites in our online shop and customize your gift with the perfect assortments of melt-in-your-mouth cookies.
May Day Fun Facts
Among the many superstitions associated with May Day was the belief that washing your face with dew on the morning of May 1 would beautify your skin and bring good luck.
Kids would go barefoot on May Day for the first time of the year. Whatever your age today, walking barefoot in the morning dew or in the grass at the park is always a good way to stay grounded. If you have kids or grandchildren, encourage them to do the same today!
In some parts of the world, people would make a May bush, typically a thorn bush or branch decorated with flowers and ribbons. Create your own May bush – just find a branch and decorate it with colored ribbons.
On May 1, people in Britain welcome spring by “Bringing in the May,” or gathering cuttings of flowering trees for their homes. Bringing in flowering branches from your region like forsythia, magnolia, redbud, and lilac, depending on where you live, is always a lovely way to brighten up your own space.
This basket also makes for the perfect gift idea for a friend, loved one, or any special occasion this Spring!
We’ll See You on Social
We hope you can take some time to enjoy the beauty of nature and have fun celebrating your own May Day festivities. Be sure to share photos of your finished baskets with the Walkers community on social media and please tag us in your post!