How lovely it would be to enter the world of Betsy-Tacy or Tasha Tudor, if only for a day, and experience the old-fashioned delight of May Baskets. In that sunny long ago, mothers and children employed themselves on April afternoons handcrafting baskets and flooding them with flowers to be left on the doorsteps of grateful neighbors on the first of May. Although May Baskets are a secular custom, they may be readily adapted to honor Our Blessed Mother at the outset of her month and celebrate the feast of her beloved spouse and protector, Saint Joseph the Worker.
After Mass tomorrow, the children and I will spend some time decorating and preparing baskets to surprise their grandmothers, not to mention some of their dearest friends. If you are anything like me, you will not need to buy many supplies for this project, but may gather all you need from around the house.
Suggested Materials for May Baskets:
1. Holy cards, plastic rosaries, scapulars, religious medals, small statues
Our home is brimming with religious objects amassed over the years, and I have always wanted to put these treasures to good use. Stocking our May Baskets with religious articles will turn them into a meaningful and memorable gift.
2. Easter Baskets or other containers
We have many baskets of different sizes left over from Easter, not to mention rattling around in the basement. These will have a new lease on life when tied with pretty ribbon and filled with religious items and spring flowers. We also have cardboard boxes, plastic cups, empty strawberry baskets, and other receptacles just waiting for the creative hand of a child to change them into something charming.
3. Colored tissue, construction paper, stickers, pieces of felt or fabric
Gather these things to line and embellish the baskets.
4. Ribbon and lace, frills, floss and frippery
Check your sewing baskets and craft drawers for beautiful ribbon and other finery. Perhaps you will find something you purchased years ago, but have yet to use, that may turn an ugly-duckling basket into a winsome swan.
5. Holy Water
If you read this post before Sunday Mass tomorrow, bring home holy water from church to add to your May Baskets or to place on your May altars at home.
6. Spring Flowers
Even if you are not a gardener, lawns and parks are sprigged with violets and dandelions this time of year and, best of all, children love permission to pick them. Wrap the stems in a bit of damp paper towel and aluminum foil for a bouquet to melt any grandmother's heart. (I have had silk dogwood branches sitting in the garage since Margaret's First Holy Communion last year, and you may be sure these will be turning up in our baskets tomorrow.)
7. If you must go shopping
If you have the luxury of a nearby craft store, you might want to think about blue ribbon and tissue, inexpensive baskets, candy or other treats, and silk flowers to adorn your baskets, but this is not at all necessary. The fun for the children is in the creation itself and not the specific materials, and the joy for the recipients will be seeing the love that went into each and every aspect of these simple gifts.
As you prepare the baskets, be sure to remind the children of the story of "The Visitation." I am sure Our thoughtful Blessed Mother would have packed many offerings to cheer and delight her cousin, Elizabeth. Perhaps the children could muse about what Our Lady might include in such a basket.
[This post is meant to begin you on an idea for Marian May Baskets in case you or your children would like to craft on Sunday, April 30. I will be posting more photos and suggestions tomorrow and probably editing this entry to make it somewhat intelligible after I have had a good night's sleep!]