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Pictures From the Past — May Day

Readers share their favorite photos of May Day holiday celebrations in the past, from parade costumes to Maypole traditions.

Whopper of a hoop skirt!

“My grandmother, Mary Svetich Rozman, was 16 years old when she was Queen of the May at the May Day parade in Calumet, Michigan in 1917,” writes Cathy Rozman from Plymouth. “The trick to this float is that she’s standing on a car underneath the giant skirt! Afterward, her family liked to tease her with the nickname ‘Queenie.'”

Maypole memories

The May Day celebration pictured (at right) happened in Aetnaville, Ohio, recalls Mildred Martin of Monett, Missouri. The tulip-horned phonograph provided music as the children wrapped colorful streamers around the Maypole. Mildred’s sister was present (second girl standing from the right).


{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Laura May 1, 2012 at 12:57 pm

When I was a young girl in the early ’60s, I used to make tiny bouquets from violets every May 1st. I would then go to the homes of elderly people in my neighborhood, lay a bouquet on their doorstep, ring the doorbell, and run away before they could see who left the little springtime gift!


Amy April 23, 2013 at 1:39 am

My sister and I used to do the same thing! You are one of the few people that know of that tradition. Whenever I mention May Day bouquets, people just give me blank stares. What fun we had sneaking up to their door (trying not to be seen) leaving the bouquet, ringing the doorbell or knocking and then running like crazy in order to go hide and see the person’s reaction when they found the bouquet! Such fun memories!


Dana Burris May 1, 2012 at 6:03 pm

My mother had my sister and myself fashion little flower bouquets tied together with string. Then we would visit the neighbors homes on the city block where we lived, and hang the bouquets from the front door knobs . . . to celebrate May Day!


jean May 1, 2012 at 8:23 pm

I can remember making May Day baskets and placing on the door steps of family and friends on the first day of May.


Geraldine Frank May 1, 2013 at 1:20 pm

Yes…. I remember May Day… and May baskets, but I remember it just a bit differently. We would make May baskets from construction paper and crepe paper and fill them with flowers and candy. Then the girls (who made the baskets) would hang them on the front door knobs of boys they liked, knock on the door, and run like crazy. If the boy caught you, you got a kiss. Of course, none of us girls ran very fast.

I’m trying to find more information on May Day… how/where it started. Does anyone remember? I think REMINISCE had an article several years ago, but now I can’t find it. No one today (that I know of) remembers anything about May Day.


Geraldine Frank May 2, 2013 at 9:43 am

Found it! The article I was looking for appeared in the May/June 2005 issue of Reminisce – page 46.


Bee May 9, 2013 at 8:53 pm

This year was my first May Day, which also is my birthday, in my new house. To my surprise and pleasure preschoolers were leaving May Day baskets with flowers at my door. They made them their selves. Sure a beautiful thing to have happened.


Nancy Godfrey May 10, 2013 at 2:11 pm

I also remember May Day celebration. During my early school days in the 50’s, we would make decorations in preparation of May Day. During the mid 80’s, my two youngest children would bring several friends to our home to make May Day baskets from construction paper. Then they would ask permission from most of the neighbors to pick flowers. After filling the baskets, they would do the traditional thing of leaving them on the neighbors doorstep, ringing the bell and run, run, run. Of course the neighbors always knew where the baskets came from since they had been the contributors of the flowers. The children returned home with smiles for the ‘secret act of kindness’ they had done.


Lori May 10, 2013 at 9:03 pm

I did not grow up with May Day celebrations though I had read about them many times over the years. I home schooled my children (1990’s-2000’s) and so decided this would be a fun activity for my younger 4 girls (I have 8 kids, all now grown) age 10 and under.
I had found a plan for making a rectangular-sized market basket and made it from poster cardboard as this was very sturdy. I made these up, cut them out, glued them together, and let the girls paint them and add whatever trimmings they wanted such as lace or beads. We used items we had on hand in our craft bins.
We filled these baskets with candies and gum and then I had the girls deliver them to various homes in the neighborhood, mainly the elderly and lonely. A few of the elderly people were pleasantly surprised and told my girls stories of how they’d done the same thing when they were younger, only more as a surprise.
These baskets were about 3″x2″ and just the perfect size for small candies.
I made a much larger cardboard box that was about 12″x4″ that I filled with small gifts such as a small book, candies, a candle, etc. for my Secret Pal at church. Since she was not yet a mom and I would not be getting her anything for Mother’s Day, I made this gift up for her for May Day and she loved it. Of course, she did not know who I was until September, but I remember telling me how much she’d loved the creativity and time I’d put in all of her gifts, most made in some way as crafts.
Thanks for reminding me of these fun times with my kids when they were much younger as they are all in their 20’s and 30’s now, most with children of their own.


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