May 1, 1851




May 1st Thursday  Have cleaned the shed chamber to

day and a long dirty job it is  there is so much in it.

I got through just in time to go to Mr Torreys

after some plants when Orinthia came out of

school.  She went with me and we brought home

three baskets full and have set them out in

the garden This morning it was quite unpleasant

and Susan was disappointed in her walk

May Day! In our modern world, the first day of May means many things to many people, among them International Workers’s Day, the Roman Catholic Celebration of the Blessed Virgin Mary Day, even a day for the 21st century Occupy Movement. May Day has ancient iterations, too, most of them having to do with pagan rites of spring.

In 1851, the first of May meant “maying.” Young people like nine-year old Susie Ames filled small baskets with flowers, ribbons, or other little treats and left them, anonymously, on doorsteps around the town. The game was to leave a basket, ring the doorbell, and run away.  If the recipient caught you, he or she was allowed to chase you for a kiss; at least, that was one version. Another version was to leave the basket as a surprise at the home of an elderly person. On this particular May Day, the weather was too disagreeable for the traditional maying walk, so Susie and her friends were unable to deliver their baskets.

Evelina dealt with baskets, too. She and Orinthia Foss filled three of them with plants from John Torrey and put them in her garden. It was her reward for having spent most of the day cleaning out the “shed chamber.”  Spring cleaning was still underway.

2 thoughts on “May 1, 1851

  1. When I was raising my children in the 1970’s we did exactly what is described above as “maying.” The Fuller Brush man got caught in the middle of he kissing part once. He was quite confused.
    Now when I mention this custom to friends, it is quite foreign to them. Too bad. It was good innocent fun.

    • Anna Lee – What a hoot! I remember May baskets, too, but we left ours in secret (or so we thought) around the neighborhood. No kissing, just flowers.

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