May 1, 2007

Happy May Day!

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Ever since my children were young, we have practiced the tradition of May Day flowers. We would make pretty little baskets or cones, fill them up with whatever flowers were available in our yard or from the shrubbery and then hurry to set them by our neighbors doors....knocking to alert them, then running and hiding as quickly as we could.

We always expected the tradition to be returned back, and we always enjoyed being 'surprised' anyway. It became a contest to see who would remember the date first and get their flowers first to the door. We looked forward to May 1st, with great anticipation.

The origins of May Day, like many of our holidays come from ancient times and cultures. The Druids believed it was the day that divided the year into half and to celebrate this milestone, they lit huge bonfires to signify the burgeoning of the springtime sun. Every one passed through the smoke for purification and good luck.

When the Romans came, it changed to a worship of Flora, the goddess of flowers. In her honor, everyone celebrated for five days...April 28 to May 2. Bit by bit, the celebration of the Celtic Beltane, and the Roman Floralia combined. With the advent of the Puritans in the British Isles, rites changed, once again. The old ways may have been put away, and new ones came in, but the tradition of flowers and merriment continued. The tradition of the giving of flowers and dancing around the Maypole (known as 'The Tree of Liberty"during the French Revolution) continue today in many countries and have simply come to signify a welcoming in of Spring.

Instead of flowers this year, I gave little quilts. This one which I have called 'Strips, Stripes and Flowers" was given to a young man in his thirties who is fighting for custody of his 10 month old daughter. It was great fun to hop on my bicycle (picture the Wizard of Oz and add the music) and pedal down the street to pass on a 'May basket" gift bag with a little quilt in it, knowing that this young man lived nearby and had his beautiful little daughter happily with him. I saw this as a continuation of my own celebration of Spring. Preparing the 'flowers', and suprising another.... as we all set old times aside and start fresh with the advent of Spring.

Happy May Day to all of you!


Unknown said...

what a lovely custom - there's something so nice about interacting like that with your neighbours - to be honest here in the UK people so often keep themselves to themselves - in fact in our close I think I'm the only one who puts a christmas card through every door - a little thought and kindness doesn't cost much and so brightens the day!

SuBee said...

Gee, I wanna go back and grow up like that! All we did to celebrate May Day was simulate plane crashes to drive the Dads crazy. Too bad. May Day quilts sounds like an equally wonderful idea!

Mrs. Goodneedle said...

What a lovely NEW tradition and inspiring story... thanks for sharing your heart with all of us! (That little girl will just LOVE this quilt!)Happy May Day!

Rose Johnston said...

Happy May Day!!!....what a beautiful gift....every neighbourhood needs "U" in it...just to remind and inspire us to give the greatest gift....our heart!!!

Finn said...

Thank you for sharing so much information about May Day. It's more than I ever knew about May Day. I knew about may poles and the baskets or cones of flowers on people doors, but not the rest.

I think your new tradition is perfect in every way. Very much the 'Quiltermaker's Gift' *VBS* There is always someone who can use a fabric hug. Hugs for you and your sensibility, Finn