Make a May Day Cone Basket

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Make a May Day Cone Basket

Make this simple May Day basket and fill it with flowers. Image © Patti Wigington 2009

In some rural societies, May Day flower baskets were a perfect way to send a message to someone you cared for, especially at Beltane. In the Victorian era, it became popular to send people messages told in the language of flowers. There was a fairly standard list, so if you received a bouquet of lemon blossoms, for example, you'd know that someone was promising you fidelity and faithfulness in their love for you. Be sure to read the list of the Language of Flowers.

The History Behind May Day Flower Baskets

Linton Weeks at NPR says in A Forgotten Tradition: May Basket Day that this was a popular tradition in the United States in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Weeks says, "In St. Joseph, Mich., the Herald reported on May 6, 1886, "little folks observed May Basket Day custom in hanging pretty baskets to door knobs." The Taunton, Mass., Gazette in May 1889 told the story of a young man who got up very early and walked a mile and a half to hang a basket on his sweetheart's door, only to find another basket from another beau already hanging there."

Old Fashioned Living blogger Brenda Hyde explains that Little Women author Louisa May Alcott wrote about the practice in her story Jack and Jill: "Handing out May Day baskets is a charming and gentle activity for children and adults. It's a tradition that Louisa May Alcott wrote of in Jack and Jill" (Chapter 18): "The job now in hand was May baskets, for it was the custom of the children to hang them on the doors of their friends the night before May-day; and the girls had agreed to supply baskets if the boys would hunt for flowers, much the harder task of the two. Jill had more leisure as well as taste and skill than the other girls, so she amused herself with making a goodly store of pretty baskets of all shapes, sizes, and colors, quite confident that they would be filled, though not a flower had shown its head except a few hardy dandelions, and here and there a small cluster of saxifrage." (a type of herb called Greater Burnet)."

One fascinating bit of history behind the May basket custom is that - in addition to the gifting being thoroughly anonymous - it's one of the few times of year when kids give gifts to adults, instead of the other way around. This is a great craft to make with little ones for them to present to grandparents, teachers, or other adult family members and friends

Make Your Own May Day Basket

You can make this basket and fill it with the flower that sends the message you want to send along. Hang it on the door of someone special!

You'll need the following supplies:

  • Heavy-duty paper
  • Scissors and glue (or tape)
  • Flowers of your choice

Cut a large circle out of heavy-duty paper. The best kind of paper for this project is actually the 12x12" scrapbooking paper -- it doesn't tear easily, and it comes in an apparently endless variety of designs. To cut the circle, place a large dinner plate on the paper and trace it, and then cut it out.

Cut a wedge-shape out of the circle. Imagine the circle is a pizza with six slices, and remove one of those slices.

In addition to the circle, you'll need a strip about 12" long by an inch wide.

Roll the circle (minus the wedge-piece) up so that it forms a cone shape. Tape or glue the edges in place.

Attach the strip to the open end of the cone, to make a handle.

Finally, fill the basket with flowers. You may also want to add ribbon, raffia, magical herb cuttings, or some Spanish moss to jazz it up a little. Hang the basket over the doorknob of someone special, so that when they open their door, they'll find your gift!