Surprise your friends with a lovely May basket.
One of the most charming, if not endearing, childhood traditions has to be the creation and delivery of May baskets. While the annual May 1 tradition might have dipped a bit in popularity, we think it’s time, especially as we look for ways to reconnect with neighbors and friends, to escort the custom back to the fore.
One is never too old to appreciate finding a delightful basket of spring flowers or delicate sweets attached to a doorknob or poised on the front step. Confections aren’t hard to find, but it’s a bit early for cutting gardens. Anna Donato-Ghani, co-owner of Donato’s Floral, shows us how purchased flowers can add a personalized touch to May baskets—perfect for friends, family, coworkers, teachers or anyone deserving of a day brightener.
“We used to make a May basket out of construction paper as a child at school. We would cut strips, and weave them into a basket,” Donato-Ghani says. “My favorite memory was picking lily of the valley from the side of the garage and putting them in the May basket for my mom.”
Today, Donato-Ghani recommends additional floral choices. “We like to design with iris, tulips, daisies, sweetheart roses, pussy willow and filler flowers, like caspia and wax flower,” she says. Other go-to elements include blooming branches, such as forsythia, quince, cherry blossoms, green sheet moss and pods.
Since there’s no telling when the recipient will discover the perfect posy on the doorstep, providing moisture to the flowers is a must. “We use soaked floral foam and moss that is moist to keep the flowers hydrated,” she says. “Most important is stems need to be [removed from the basket], cut and placed in a clean glass vase with floral preservative.”
It’s All in the Delivery
Some sources note that May baskets have roots in a pagan festival, marking spring’s arrival. The modern incarnation would find folks leaving May baskets for a sweetheart (secret or otherwise!) with a quick “knock knock” on the door or ring of the doorbell before dashing off to avoid being caught (sometimes with a kiss!) by the recipient.
Today’s version affords the giver to take whatever avenue of delivery seems best. But, in our eyes, the element of a sweet surprise sprinkled with mystery always adds a touch of whimsy and fun to any tradition.
Art to Heart
Who better to ask for a dose of creative inspiration when it comes to creating children’s May baskets than an elementary art teacher? Kori Brown, the visual art teacher at Birch Grove Elementary School for the Arts, shares a creatively-appropriate idea.
Upcycled Magazine Basket
- Masking tape
Cut three-inch strips from colorful magazines. Fold each strip in half (going the long way), and unfold it, creating a crease down the center. Fold the edges in towards the crease on each strip, and fold it in half again. Glue the strip together. Make 22 strips. (You might need more, but start with 22.) Lay seven strips side by side, taping the strips to a table or other hard surface to hold them in place. Take all but six of the remaining strips and weave them (over, under, over), using glue every so often to make sure it stays in place. Once the glue is dry, bend up the edges of the strips. Take the remaining six strips and glue three together to create longer strips. Use those long strips to continue to weave (over, under, over), going up the sides. Trim the extra material, but leave enough to fold over a little bit. Add masking tape on the top to secure it. To make a handle, create two more strips, and glue them together. Adhere them to the side of the basket to create the handle.
In the ‘90s, Donato’s Floral offered prearranged May baskets, and Donato-Ghani wants to bring the service back.
“I can remember making 150 fresh floral basket arrangements in an adorable wicker basket and offering them to the community to buy to spread some joy,” she says. “We would sell them out of our big floral cooler, and people would buy three to five at a time. In reflecting back to our humble beginnings and in loving memory of our founder and amazing, talented brother, Victor Donato, (He passed away in 2014), we want to offer these baskets this year as a sign of hope and joy as we have all suffered through the dreary days of COVID.”
Curbside pickup May baskets ($19.99) will be available to the first 150 orders the week of April 28–May 1 or while supplies last.
Each basket can come with a note. “It’s a very simple yet profound quote I used to tell my children daily,” Donato-Ghani says. “Every day in every way, it’s getting better and better.”
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