Friday, May 1, 2009

Happy May Day!

A cyber gift of flowers; some lilacs for you from the tree in our backyard...

Today is a holiday I dearly wish were celebrated more widely....

I'm probably dating myself here, but when we were children, the first of May was a very big deal. It was a celebration of spring - a day of flower gathering, dancing and kindness to our elderly neighbors.

We lived in an old house, on a very tiny, dead end street, and our little neighborhood was bordered by woods at the back and a small field at one end - lots of room to gather flowers without having to raid anyone's garden. :)

We had two elderly neighbors, both widows, but with complete opposite temperaments. Mrs. Degleman occupied a little white house to our left, and we called her the neighborhood witch - not in a fun, Halloween kind of way, but in a scary, grouchy, "get off my property" and "I'll make you cut down that treehouse" kind of way. We were told to just leave her alone, and for the most part we did.

In the little grey cape cod to our right lived Mrs. Schroder. Well into her eighties when I was just ten, she would take every opportunity to invite us in for a glass of lemonade, and show us pieces of her past...carefully taking out an old photo album with photos of her late husband, who fought in World War I, faded wedding pictures showing a handsome gentleman and his beautiful young bride. She also had a parakeet named Petey whom she doted on, and a middle aged son who appeared only when the grass out front needed cutting. Every surface of her house was covered in tatted doilies and it smelled of must and lavender.

On the eve of May Day, my Mother would help us make baskets from plastic strawberry containers and construction paper, and the next morning we would awaken very early, sneak out of the house and pick flowers, to be brought home to our Mother (who always pretended to be surprised), and placed in the baskets, to be left on our neighbors' doorsteps, including these two widows.

Mrs. Schroder was always delighted with the flowers, and said so. Mrs Degleman never said a word.

But I like to think we brightened her day just a little, that maybe she didn't think we were all THAT bad. :)

If it was a school day, more celebrations followed. The girls wore their best dresses (this would have been just a year or two before girls were alowed to wear slacks to school - didn't think I was that old, did you?)...and lessons would be put on hold for a couple of hours as everyone gathered in the playground for a maypole dance. The maypole was actually a tetherball pole (do kids still play tetherball?) which was decorated with flowers and crepe paper. Different girls were chosen each year to dance around the maypole, weaving the crepe paper into a beautiful pattern. The one year I was chosen I remember practicing endlessly in the school gymnasium - which was fine because it was better than math. Here's a wonderful photo of a Maypole dance somewhere in the UK:

Many years later, when my daughter was little, May Day was also a big day at school, honoring Mary with a procession through the streets, ending in the school courtyard and crowning her statue with flowers. They would choose one second grader to place the crown atop her head, and I remember Courtney was soooooo excited when she was chosen...

Wonderful memories, these....and I'm a little sorry some of these traditions have fallen by the wayside. But perhaps those of us who remember can keep them alive? Craft some beautiful baskets, give some flowers to our neighbors....Maybe even create some beautiful May Day art?!

I'm suddenly feeling the need to do some Maypole sketches....and perhaps some kind of blog event next year?

In the meantime, I wish you all a very Happy May Day, and a Blessed Beltane to those who celebrate it! I'm off to put some fairie-like tunes in the CD player and begin painting....

Until next time,
♥ Carolee


William Bezek said...

I like the idea of leaving baskets of flowers for neighbors, very nice. I can smell the lilacs through my own window...Heavenly. Happy May Day Carolee

Melissa the Holiday Queen said...

Sounds like we had a similar childhood of recycling strawberry baskets into flowering tokens of love. My youngest daughter's birthday is in April so for her Birthday she would always request a Fairy party and a May pole. Good times indeed!

Kathleen Coy said...

Happy May Day to you, my dear! Can't wait to see any May Day inspired art you come up with. I was inspired yesterday, big time..! :-)

Designs By CK said...

Happy Beltaine Carolee!

mE (-:

Fuzzy Brush said...

What a sweet story Carolee. It reminds me of childhood and your lilac photo caused me to think I actually could smell them. Does anything smell as beautiful as lilacs? When I was a child, my favorite hiding place was under Ms Clark's (next door single lady) lilac bush which was so large that it drooped over creating a large cave like room. It was in this lilac room that I spent many hours on end, just thinking and smelling that wonderful fragrance. To this day, the smell of lilacs puts me right back under Ms Clark's lilac bush!

fawndear said...

I'm so with you. Bring back May Day! When my daughters get home from school today they are going to wear little flower crowns and take baskets to our neighbors.
Love it!

Jennifer MacNeill-Traylor said...

Happy May Day! I went to Longwood. What better place to celebrate:)

Tess said...

Oh thank you for the lovely walk down memory lane.

Janine said...

What a wonderful story.
Thank you for sharing that memories.
I was surprised, that you had a maypole you were dancing around.
Most ofthe people in your country seemed not to know what that may- day and beltane is all about.
But the U.S. areso big. Maybe that differs from state to state.
I´m looking foreward to see your may- painting.
Enjoy weekend
Happy holiday and blessings

Beth Niquette said...

I remember Mayday baskets and dancing around the maypole as a freshman in high school.

I remember the year we voted as a class to allow girls to wear pants to school. Looking back, I think the school administrators finally allowed it, because at that time the skirts kept getting shorter and shorter. (grin)

Thank you for your kind comments on my blog! And I really enjoyed reading your blog this morning.

vintagepaletteart said...

Your lilac pic reminds me of the days spent playing in the ancient hedge of them that my Nanny had out in her front yard. We had little rooms......and even an old worn stone that we used for a chair to sit upon. I can still smell the scent of the lilacs and remember her cutting some for me to take to school for my teacher. Thanks for the memories Carolee! =o)

Hugs, Lori