The tradition of May Day, or Beltaine (Bright Fire) was a Celtic agricultural celebration of the first day of summer and the pagan worship of blooming, fertility, mating and pleasure!
It was in medieval times, that the Celts, as part of their ritual, would leap over a bonfire in the attempt to predict how high the year's crop would grow. Eventually, this celebration would evolve into a time to joyfully dance around the Maypole, which was the symbol of life. The young males and females of the village would present each other with flowers and tree branches which were meant to symbolize specific sentiments (love, promise, scorn). The celebrations would begin at sundown on April 28, and last for three whole days! To celebrate in this way was to go "a-Maying."
May traditions evolved over time and as Paganism gave way to Christianity, the month of May became the month of Mary, the mother of Jesus. In France, and later in our own coutry, young girls would be crowned as the May Queen, as a symbolic representation of the Virgin Mary, and lead a procession through the towns. I've even heard that May marriages have been discouraged by Catholics, as this month was dedicated solely to Mary. Even today, First Holy Communions are held in May in keeping with these roots. Hence, its no wonder that Mother's day is commemorated during this month as well.
One of the charming Victorian customs of May, was delivering May baskets to loved ones. Handmade paper baskets would be filled with seasonal flowers and hung on the recipient's doorknob. Upon ringing the doorbell, the sender would run away so as to keep up the surprise! This is a lovely tradition which has somehow gone by the boards in modern times, at least in the U.S.
We too, can celebrate the coming of May right here in Braintree! If you are a gardener, its time to get out the old rake and shovel and get ready for planting!
Check out the , which is currently displaying all those necessary gardening accoutrements. They have some lovely ceramic pots in earthy shades of blue, green, brown and tan as well as strawberry pots and plastic window boxes and other pots that can even fit around poles and in corners!
Over on the Braintree/Randolph line at on West Street, many fine specimens of trees and shrubs await you. What better gift for Mom (or Wifey), than a lovely, sweet-scented lilac bush? Certain trees and flowers have special meaning in "florigraphy," the language of flowers, and the lilac is a symbol of either, "first emotions of love," "youthful innocence" (for the white cultivars) or "memories," thus making it a good choice for Mother's Day, births, or weddings. It is also significant to eighth wedding anniversaries. Planting it under the kitchen window or close to a favorite reading spot on the porch is heavenly! The price of a small lilac bush over at Quincy Adams, is about $35. The cultivar Syringa Vulgaris is the classic French Lilac and is said to be the sweetest smelling of all cultivars. There are many other wonderful, young trees available there so do go check them out!
For some outdoor home decorating, in preparation for barbeques and pool parties or Scrabble on the porch, check out the delights that the has to offer. Adorable tiny stone bird baths/planters ($145) lend charm and interest to the landscape.
For the wrap-around or screen porch, Homestretch's rustic outdoorsy furniture is just the ticket! One may choose from a folding twig table ($145), to a round copper topped willow table handmade in Ohio ($345) or classic, bentwood chairs from Pennsylvania ($225). My personal favorite is the tall Romanian-crafted bee-skep made according to a century old design. ($95). With Mother's Day around the bend, you can really score a home run at Homestretch, with the perfect gift!
If you are going to be out trudging in the soft soil of spring, be sure to visit Marshalls for a pair of Wellies. Not only are they practical but they are totally in style right now. I've included a picture of rose-patterned and polka dotted Wellies by Capelli, for a mere $19.99. I also saw classic plaids, greens and Burberry-type patterns as well.
Harkening back to the traditions of old and the May Basket in particular, take a walk over to Michael's and check out the enormous selection of baskets. Then fill them with either silk or real flowers to make up your own personalized creations. I'm sure that Linda over at can help you in that department, seeing as they constantly stock the "in-season" flowers.
Now you need to think about making those May Basket deliveries!You have several to deliver. Knowing that you are a firm believer in ecology, why not go over to the , and buy one of those around-town-touring type of bicycles? In my picture sample, I've included a snazzy red Schwinn ($129) with the back bar that allows for saddlebags or other types of attachments. That way, when you surreptitiously leave your surprise May baskets for your friends, you can make a quick getaway, like Mercury on his winged feet!
Finally, being May, it's OK to go back down memory lane and relive those days of courting your husband or wife! An appropriate venue for modern Maypole-dancing can be had by visiting on on Saturday, April 30. Baker's Troublemakers will appear on Saturday night, taking you back to college (or high school) days, playing rock and roll hits of the 80s. Add to that some gourmet pizza or comfort food (Mac n' cheese with lobstah!) and a nice craft beer and you will truly be making merry! Enjoy!