Students from Benson Hill Elementary’s three second-grade classrooms marked the first day of May Thursday with a traditional touch: by leaving baskets of flowers on neighbors’ porches.
This was Benson Hill’s second annual May Day celebration. Second-grade teacher Shelley Severson brought the tradition to Benson Hill from the Portland, Ore., elementary school where she previously taught. Benson Hill students made the flowers out of paper.
“It’s just a good opportunity for the kids to experience giving and not receiving something in return,” Severson says. “And keeping the tradition of May Day alive.”
May Day was celebrated as the first day of summer in many European pre-Christian pagan cultures. June 25 was considered the start of midsummer.
Early European settlers in North America marked May 1 by leaving baskets of flowers on doorsteps, and some, like Benson Hill’s students, continue the tradition today.
According to tradition, the gift-bearer is to announce their delivery by ringing the doorbell. The gift-bearer is then to run, and the person receiving the flower basket is to catch the person. If the catch is made, a kiss is to be exchanged.
But Benson Hill students didn’t do any doorbell ringing, chasing or kissing. Students simply left the homemade flower baskets in front of doors for the recipients to discover. But some recipients caught the students in the act.
“Some people were at home and came out,” Severson says.
The students then greeted the flower recipients with, “Happy May Day.”
The May Day activity was fun for everyone, Severson says.
“The kids had so much fun. They saw their neighbors, and were able to say, ‘Happy May Day.’”
And the neighbors?
“I think they loved it,” Severson says. “Everybody smiled, and said ‘Happy May Day’ back.”