OmahaHa! contributor Jessica shares her memories of May Day in Omaha and how she’s passing it on to her children.
On the first of May, my children will spend their afternoon creeping around corners of neighbors’ homes, exchanging directions in hushed whispers, swiftly and carefully placing the small cups of treasure, ringing the doorbell, and scrambling away. The recipient will burst out the front door, give chase, as two gleefully terrified boys bolt from the scene. Giggling and panting, having avoided capture, eyes wide and smiles wider, they will agree: “Whew, that was close! She was fast and she’s probably a wet kisser!”
Well, ideally that’s the case – and sometimes it is. Yet most of our May Day encounters are more subdued, basket delivery met with bewilderment, confusion and a friendly wave rather than threat of catch and kiss. Sadly, it seems that a once-treasured tradition has begun to fade into obscurity.
The May Day I know and love, the one of my youth, is a celebration of springtime. As a grade schooler at the great Norman Rockwell Elementary school, we observed the holiday traditionally. Gathered in the cafegymatorium, we skipped and danced circles around the May Pole as Mrs. Ellis led us in song (“… and it’s up we go and down we go and round and round the May Pole.”), weaving brightly colored lengths of crepe paper as we went, enrobing the tetherball-post-turned-May Pole in a gloriously vivid web. After dismissal, we dashed home to assemble May Baskets, usually Dixie cups with a small pipe cleaner handle, crammed with small candies and flowers plucked from the yard. Children darted house to house, baskets dropped, a hasty knock and doorbell pressed for good measure, kids squatted among the bushes, squeals and laughter echoed up and down the street, and any skinned knees served as a badge of glory, a testament to one’s speed and cunning – and evidence of being cootie-free.
As soon as my own children were old enough to walk, they were ringing the bell and running, embracing May Day and bringing tiny cups of joy to friends and neighbors as I once had. But why are their May Basket deliveries so often met with baffled stares out the front door, why are so many people unfamiliar with May Day? I was surprised to learn that this is a highly regional — and spotty — observance. In my own completely unscientific, casually derived research, it seems that May Day festivities are unheard of outside of small pockets of the Midwest, specifically only tiny parts of Nebraska, Iowa and Minnesota. Transplants from other areas are completely unaware of the holiday and its customs, and as a result, May Day’s local popularity has declined over the years. I propose we change that.
It is such a simple and lovely gesture, the act of brightening a friend’s doorstep. In the age of excess, of grandiose commercialized holidays, isn’t a child’s little cup of treats and posies left for another just a beautiful thing? Let’s bring May Day back, starting this Wednesday. And should your child find a way to my porch, may they be warned: I’m faster than I look, and a sloppy kisser too.
From simple to sophisticated, visit OmahaHa!’s May Day baskets Pinterest board for more ideas on creating May Day baskets on your own or with your kids.