Delivering May baskets on May 1st is a practice that seems to have nearly disappeared, but one that I feel is ripe for revival, given its tradition of DIY crafting. You can fashion a May Day basket from pretty much anything, Dixie cups and pipe cleaners, green strawberry containers, a triangle of construction paper used to form a cone, or any number of origami inspired boxes. But we chose to craft ours from the materials we had on hand: paper lunch bags, twine, and cardboard from our recycling bins. Here's how we did it.
• small paper lunch bags
• cardboard from your recycling bin
• scallop scissors
• paper hole punch
• clear packing tape
• assortment of rubber stamps and ink pads
• homemade cookies
• an assortment of chocolates and other sweets
• annual flower packs from your local nursery
1. Cut off the bottom 1/3 of the paper bag using the scallop scissors.
2. With the bottom portion of the bag laid flat, add embellishments or stamp a celebratory message (i.e. "Yay! May!), then flip the bag around and do the same on the backside.
3. Next, unfold and open the bag so that it sits upright, and apply a square of clear packing tape to both of the inside walls of the paper bag. This is to strengthen the area where you'll be attaching the twine basket handle.
4. Use your paper hole punch to punch out a hole in the center of the clear packing tape.
5. Cut a 12" length of twine. Then, from the outside in, thread each of the loose ends through the punched out holes, and tie a big knot (or two) on each end of the twine to firmly secure it from pulling out of the holes.
6. And last, but not least, cut out a rectangle of cardboard to fit snugly into the bottom of the bag for structural support. Voila!
Of course, letting your kids go to town with markers, crayons, and colored pencils makes for a far more personal basket, but arming kids with rubber stamps is both fun, and speeds up the process. Once you've created the first basket and template for the cardboard insert you can crank out a whole slew of these in no time.
Now for filling your baskets. Whip up a big batch of popcorn, and fill each basket half way full. This was a traditional May basket staple when I was kid, and makes a perfect nest for your goodies. Next, use scissors to cut and divide your annual flower packs up into individual pots, and nestle one of these in each of your baskets of popcorn. And finally toss in a couple sweets. Along with some foil wrapped chocolates in the shape of lady bugs and bumblebees, we made almond bark and shortbread cookies which we wrapped in squares of wax paper. My son loves adding measured out ingredients into mixing bowls, particularly when concocting cookie dough, and I think and the addition of some homemade baked goods gives the baskets a more personal flair.
Of course the real fun comes from making your doorstop deliveries, ringing friends' doorbells and making your getaway.
Granted, when resurrecting an obscure tradition some folks may be confused at first, but in my opinion the unexpected surprise makes it all the more fun.
As we discovered, what's really convenient about these lunch bag baskets (as opposed to the classic cone-shaped ones) is how neatly you can arrange them in the bottom of a wooden crate or box for making your deliveries.
C'mon, anonymous packages hung from doorknobs in celebration of Spring, what's not to love?
[Editor's note: this post was written by Ben Partridge as part of his audition to join our team - which, happily, he did. It was originally published on 6.02.2010.]
(Images: Ben Partridge)