What is a May Basket and Why Do People Hang Them on Doors?

Perhaps the sweet tradition of giving May baskets is ready for a reboot.

Child Suzanne Tucker/Shutterstock

What Are May Baskets?

Once upon a time, the first day of May evoked good tidings and sweet little gifts for loved ones and neighbors, from those weary of winter and thankful for spring. Today, May Day is a somewhat forgotten holiday except by those who still dance around the maypole. Perhaps the sweet tradition of giving May baskets is ready for a reboot.

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A Brief History of May Baskets

Like all May Day observances, May baskets were used to commemorate the turn of chilly and rainy months into warmer and happier ones. The tradition dates back to pagan rituals in the 12th and 13th centuries in Germany. Some records even place it as far back as revelry around Flora, the goddess of flowers, in ancient Rome. Regardless of when it began, flowers have remained a symbol of the spring celebration. These beautiful flower towers will inspire you for May Day and beyond.

Why Do People Hang May Baskets on Doors?

The popularity of May Day grew in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The traditional gift was a small basket, often handmade, with a few flowers and trinkets or other homemade treats, sneakily hung on the front door handle. If you notice a loose door handle while you’re hanging your basket, fix it with this how-to guide!

At one time, it was also common for boys to leave a May basket on the door of the girl they were especially smitten with and then run away. If the recipient opened the door to see her admirer running away, she could chase him down and give him a little kiss.

It’s sweet that this tradition was kept for such a long time because its innocence and charm speak of a much simpler time. It seems likely that if someone tried this tradition today there could be trespassing charges filed.

I don’t know about you, but the innocent giving of a May basket seems like a lovely tradition that could benefit us all. So, on April 30, consider creating a May basket (or maybe a bunch of them) to hang on your neighbors’ (or your true love’s) door.

Steal some inspiration for May Day baskets from this list of Easter basket ideas.

Hannah Louise
I help people tell stories, whether that's about themselves, their company, or their product. Every project I take on has one priority: make sure the audience connects with the content. I've fine-tuned this skill over the past decade by creating content for audiences from C-suites to new hires in organizations large and small. I launched my career as a generational keynote speaker (think dispelling myths about Millennials/Xers/Boomers) and worked my way to being a principal of a consulting firm and published author by writing, presenting, and editing books, blogs, white papers, and research analysis. I bring my values of collaboration, humility, and research-driven strategies to everything I do. I'm also a cat owner, coffee enthusiast, and new home owner (you know, your stereotypical Millennial traits.)