Next week is May Day. What that means now and what it meant when I was ten are very, very different.
After World War II, the formation of Communist block, and the beginning of the Cold War between Western oriented countries and the United Soviet Socialist Republic, May Day brought news of stiff marches of the Soviet Army showing off guns, tanks, and planes. The traditional May Day festivities in the United States declined.
In European countries, May Day is a holiday. Dancing around the Maypole continues in many small communities. Young girls in traditional costume wind the Maypole with colorful ribbons as they circle it, weaving over and under one another’s arms.
You also know the call of “mayday” when someone needs help
MAY DAY IN 1942
In the afternoon, Mrs. Parsons announced we’d be making baskets as our art project. She distributed outdated wallpaper sample books and let us choose a couple of pages we would like for our baskets. Then with her help and instruction, we folded square pieces of these colorful sheets into baskets and pasted a handle on them.
After school I begged my mother to let me go over to the sap house to look for wild mayflowers and violets that grew in the damp earth. It was a long walk, but Mom let me go. I went through the dairy barn, down a farm road and across the bridge that spanned the creek that ran through our farmland. I squeezed myself between the strands of the barbed wire fence, walked and ran down the path which acted as a road through the length of the long flat field to the fence at the other end.
In front of me stood the sap house, a very old building with its roof caving in. Dad said that many years earlier the farmer had made maple syrup in it. The large brick furnaces still in place could boil sap from one thousand maple trees growing on the hill beside the building. Dad used it one year, but it was too far away. Instead he opted to use the pans, but build a fire closer to our house. I digress.
I searched until I found the tiny white and pink mayflowers, purple, white violets, and yellow dog-tooth violets or trout lilies. When I had enough for two or three small bouquets, I retraced my route to our house. While Mom went to help Dad in the barn, I arranged my bouquets in my baskets.
As it grew dusk, I slipped out of the house to hang a basket on the front door. Then I knocked loudly and ran away a short distance. Mom came to the door to find the basket. She chased and caught me to give me a kiss. Dad took me to a neighbor’s house so I could surprise
another mom with a basket and collect my kiss. Meanwhile, Mom had a knock at the door from
another school friend.
Do you know other May Day traditions?
To see pictures of wild mayflowers, click on the URL below: