Definition: The first day of May which has always been strongly associated with flowers and frequently includes the giving of May Day Baskets.
Provenance: Celebration of May Day began as pagan festivals, celebrating spring and fertility. May 1 was one of the most important holidays of the year for the Druids of the British Isles; they believed that the day divided the year in half. When the Romans came to occupy the British Isles, they brought new traditions. Their early May was devoted to a 5-day celebration called Floralia in honor of Flora, the goddess of flowers. Ancient customs that still survive in various parts of the world include the dawn gathering of blossoms, flowers, and branches; the decking of and dancing around a maypole; the crowning of the Queen of the May; the Morris Dance (men dancing together in animal costumes); the making of garlands; the hanging of May baskets on the doorknobs of friends and neighbors; washing one’s face with May dew which supposedly has the power to maintain/restore beauty–according to American folklore, girls living in the Ozark Mountains believed that washing their faces with this dew would help them to find and marry the man of their choice.
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May Baskets are not only a celebration of spring but a celebration of giving. The basket filled with flowers–and sometimes other small gifts –is quietly, and supposedly secretly, placed on someone’s doorstep or hung on his/her door knob. Especially popular among children and young adults.
1. How to Care for Cut Flowers:
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–Because they require a healthy environment, be sure that your container is free from the bacteria that can clog the stem, preventing circulation of water and nutrients. Scrub or rinse containers with mild solution of chlorox bleach before or after each use. Also give your flowers clean well-ventilated air, as smoke and other pollutants will shorten their lives.
–Flowers respond to the temperature of the water they are placed into. Warm water encourages them to open/grow; and cool water slows their development, adding longevity.
–Always cut stems on an angle while under running water, exposing a larger surface. Use a sharp knife, as snipping stems with a scissors can pinch off the channels through which the water is conducted. When cutting tulips, removing all white portions of the stem will allow better fluid intake.
–Remove all foliage from stems which will be under water, as this will discourage bacteria from forming.
–Flower preservatives can prolong the life of your flowers. Most of them contain ingredients which keep the flowers’ energy level high (sugar), inhibit the growth of bacteria, and lower the Ph factor, enhancing water/nutrient uptake. Follow the instructions carefully.
–Many flower arrangers have their own “tried-and-true” methods of extending flower life. These range from bleach, sugar, crushed aspirin, pinch of salt and baking powder, soda, and copper pennies to various combinations. Some claim that using hairspray on the blooms will extend their attractive lives.
–Take care when combining daffodils in a bouquet, as they exude a sap that clogs the stems of other flowers (especially tulips) that can cause the other flowers to wilt. If you do include them, first soak them in warm water with a teaspoon of sugar for at least 12 hours to leach the harmful sap out of the stems.
–Keep flowers away from direct sunlight, drafts and heating/air conditioning vents; don’t set on top of TV; don’t place close to burning candles. They will enjoy being spray misted.
–Every 2 or 3 days give flower stems a fresh cut, clean out the container, and replace the water/solution to increase hydration.
–Remove flowers that wilt early from an arrangement because they give off ethylene gas (used in commercial ripening) which will cause the remainder of the flowers to wilt sooner.
–Mist full strength lemon juice on gardenias to prevent them from browning.
–When using tulips in an arrangement, dip tulips which have reached the openness you desire into beaten egg whites to prevent their opening any further.
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–Health Benefits–The presence of flowers improves emotional health and helps to relieve stress. A team of researchers at Rutgers University explored the link between flowers and life satisfaction. The recently-published study showed that 1. Flowers have an immediate impact on happiness–a universal reaction; 2. Flowers have a long-term positive effect on moods; 3. Flowers make intimate connections, their presence increasing contact with family and friends. The study also concluded that flowers are a symbol for sharing, especially the sharing of space.
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–When working with gardenias or stephanotis, you can prevent browning by first wetting your hands so that the oil from your skin will not touch the petals.
–If you plan to eventually dry your flowers/arrangement, look for plants that are interesting in shape, texture, or color once dried. Choose plants that will retain their shape and not fall apart or disintegrate.
–If you have no commercial preservative, make your own by placing 1 teaspoon sugar and a few drops of chlorine bleach into the water.
–To straighten bent tulips, wrap the stems tightly in damp newspaper, secure with a rubber band, and stand in lukewarm water with light directly above them for a couple of hours.
–Because tulips continue to grow even after being cut, it is best to change water and cut stems daily.
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–The Pilgrims of the New World observed May Day for awhile until Governor John Endicott (a Puritan) ordered all Maypoles burned down.
–May Day in England is a bank holiday; in France, it includes a procession for the Virgin Mary.
–May baskets can be made or constructed of almost anything–paper or plastic cups, oatmeal boxes, cartons, baskets, vases, pitchers, construction paper, grocery store berry baskets, flower pot, small pail, watering can… Decorated paper cones used as flower containers are called tussie mussies.
–In 2010 Girl Scouts in West Bend, Wisconsin made May Day baskets containing fresh flowers for the surprised residents of local hospitals and nursing homes. It was such a success that they have continued each year.
–Leaving an anonymous May Day Basket is considered “a random act of kindness”.
HAPPY MAY DAY!