May Day in Iowa, 1930's

May Day in Iowa was important and fun. Several days before May First, my sisters and I would be busy making little baskets out of construction paper and wallpaper samples. For special people we made little umbrella shaped baskets from tissue paper and doilies trimmed with ribbon.

As the baskets were completed, we would place them on our big dining room table where they would remain until the eve of May Day. Mom would pop corn and bring out small candies and sticks of chewing gum to fill the baskets.

To complete the baskets on May Day, we would pick violets, butter cups or any spring flower in bloom from our yard. These were placed on top of the eatables and then the baskets were arranged on trays ready for delivery.

The object of delivering a May Basket was to silently approach your friend’s porch, hang the basket on the door knob, ring the doorbell and then scurry away before you were observed. This was usually a challenge.

The second enjoyment of the day was returning home and seeing how many May Baskets were left on our porch and speculate who delivered them.

This May Basket ritual was done every year, however I really don’t know why. Maybe it was to signify the arrival of spring because spring came late in Iowa!

We never observed the “Trick or Treat Bags” of Halloween. Perhaps May Baskets was a delightful way to share “goodies” with your friends on that special May Day in Iowa.

Our high school observed the day by electing a May Queen. It involved a pageant culminating with the May Pole Dance. A flag pole was decorated with pastel-colored crepe paper streamers fastened at the top of the pole. The May Queen’s attendants each carried one, intertwining the streamers as they danced. I thought this would be the best thing that could ever happen to me – to be a part of this ceremony. This program was discontinued before I was in high school so the possibility of becoming a May Queen was never realized!!!

Elsie Johnson
Southbury, CT © 2013

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