For more than a century, the giving of May baskets has been a charming way to celebrate the joy of spring. A truly nostalgic lot, Victorians never needed prodding when it came to partaking in festive celebrations. May Day, or the first day of May, marked the middle of spring and was celebrated with much enthusiasm. The day was filled with parades, dances, festivals, music, food and evening bonfires. The traditions have changed over the years, but one thing remained constant—the giving of May baskets.
Victorians were both sentimental and creative. Girls would construct paper cones with ribbon handles and embellish them with trimmings of fabric, lace, flowers and bits of jewelry. The ornamental cone-shaped baskets would then be filled with decorated eggs, sweet treats and fresh flowers. It was the custom to wake up early on May first and sneak from house to house, hanging May baskets on the doors of family and friends. Some traditions were a little risque and required a knock after the basket was hung. Then the girls would quickly retreat. If the boy who received the basket could catch the girl before she made her escape, he would win a kiss. Traditions and customs varied from one region to the next and changed greatly over the years. However, the idea of creating Victorian May basket has withstood the test of time.
Check back on Friday for Part 2 and learn how to make your own May baskets!
Photographed and written by Melinda Graham