For some reason May Day brings to mind visions of pretty purple pansies. There is just something fresh with old fashioned charm about pansies, just like May Day itself. My pansies are growing wild… by the way!
What is May Day
The tradition has withered down, but there was a time in America when every year on May 1st people would hang on the doors of friends, neighbors, and loved ones May baskets filled with goodies such as flowers and candy. It just makes me think of a time when America really may have been innocent.
The May Day basket tradition stems from the European pagan festival of Beltane, a Celtic calendar feast ushering in the start of summer. What came to the Americas is from medieval England, when people would celebrate the start of spring by going out to the country or woods—”going a-maying”—and gathering greenery and flowers, or “bringing in the may.” This was described in “The Court of Love” by Chaucer.
The more raucous elements were toned down after the continent became Christianized. The Puritans frowned on May Day, so the day has never been celebrated with as much enthusiasm in the United States as in Great Britain. But the tradition of celebrating May Day by dancing and singing around a maypole, tied with colorful streamers or ribbons, survived as a part of the English tradition. The kids celebrating the day by moving back and forth around the pole with the streamers, choosing of May queen, and hanging of May baskets on the doorknobs of folks — are all the leftovers of the old European traditions.
What Happened to May Day?
Eventually, May Basket Day — like the spring flowers arranged in the baskets — began to wilt and droop. Though vestiges of the earnest ceremony still pop up on the Internet, the in-real-life event has pretty much evanesced. Why?
Perhaps it’s because of a national fall from innocence or an increased desire for get-off-my-lawn privacy. May be because in the 19th century May 1st was designated as the date for International Workers’ Day by the Socialists and Communists of the Second International to commemorate the violent Haymarket affair in Chicago. The Haymarket protests led to eight-hour work days becoming the norm. So, for the working classes it’s seen as a moment of rebirth, just as May Day has ancient roots in the spring festivals of rebirth and is a day from medieval England and other peasant societies.
International Workers’ Day may also be referred to as “May Day”, but it is a different celebration from the traditional May Day.
Celebrating May Day
May 1st or May Day, just might have more holidays than any other day of the year. It’s a celebration of Spring. It’s a day of political protests. It’s a Neopaganism festival, a saint’s feast day, and a day for organized labor. In many countries, it is a national holiday.
For me, it’s May Day – the day that ushers in the coming of summer and blesses the joy of spring, and with this comes many meanings and connotations to life. Reminding our friends and families, as well as the forgotten neighbors of such a sweet day in nature with gesture of kindness filled in a basket can only rejuvenate the charm of the good old days and how we once lived.
A highlight of the ancient May Day was the serving of the Beltane cake, which had a scalloped edge and held a special surprise. I have made Blue Cornbread Muffins that highlight the beautiful color tones of pansies. These muffins and purple pansies in a natural handmade basket for May Day pronounces natures elements of the day itself.
How to Make May Day Baskets
As always, I never feature any crafts unless they relate to food in some way. This May Day Basket is made with a blue berry basket that you might purchase your fruits in at the grocery store or Farmer’s Market, but you can also get unused Blue Berry Baskets at Chic Wedding Favors for gifting. These are authentic pulp berry vented tills and biodegradable, making them an environmentally conscious choice for May Day.
Simply tie ribbon ends on the two sides to make a handle that you can hang on door knobs, then fill the basket with tissue and flowers or whatever goodies you want.
Tip: The trick to keeping your flowers fresh is to place a small cup or jar filled with water in the basket and your flower stems should go in there.
I tied a little scalloped tag that said “Happy May Day” with ribbon as well. So pretty filled with flowers and one or two Blue Corn Muffins, symbolic of the Beltane cakes, which use to be broken into several pieces and drawn by celebrants at random. The Blue Cornbread Muffins are easy to make and come out sweet and moist. It’s great with chili or by itself with plentiful salty butter.
Blue Cornbread Muffins
1¼ cup blue cornmeal
1¼ cup all-purpose flour
⅓ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup creamed corn
½ cup sour cream
4 tablespoons salted butter, melted
1.Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and prepare a standard muffin tin with liners or by spraying with nonstick spray. You can also lightly coat with butter.
2.In a medium size mixing bowl, combine the blue cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the eggs, creamed corn, sour cream and melted butter. Stir to combine. Scrape the bowl to ensure that the batter is evenly moistened.
3.Using a scoop or spoon, evenly distribute the batter into the muffin tin.
4.Bake at 400 degrees for 16 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the muffin comes out dry.
5.Best served warm.