THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
Tales from the old-timer
Issue Date: October 24, 2013
May Day - and the art of neighborliness
By Jane Thibodeau Martin,
daughter of the Old-Timer
I remember the tradition of May Day - May 1, now an almost forgotten third-tier holiday observance.
May Day was to celebrate the arrival of spring, although it also has religious meaning. The customary gesture was gathering flowers to make a May basket for friends or acquaintances. In Wisconsin, by the time May comes, everyone is pretty sick of winter, and it felt like a good time for a celebration, regardless of how simple the custom.
The problem is, there are practically NO flowers in May in Wisconsin. So my siblings and I would make little paper baskets, scrounge some Marsh Marigolds/Buttercups out of the ditch (if it was a mild spring), Pussy Willows, a Dande-lion or two from some sheltered spot around the house, and make a wilted little arrangements with a few weeds stuck in for filler, and deliver them to neighbors via the hang on the doorknob method.
This custom has the same meaning to me as Halloween. It has become somewhat fashionable to shun Halloween and instead have Fall parties or Harvest parties, but I find the custom of children going door to door in neighborhoods to get treats full of charm. It is a linkage between neighbors. When we still lived on Highway 180 in Marinette, one kind lady on our route not only let my kids help themselves from her huge candy bowl, she always presented me with a cabbage as well. I think of her every Halloween, and wish someone here in Oklahoma would honor me with such a gift.
Neighbors can be connected by Christmas caroling, another personal contact holiday tradition. Our church in Marinette rounded up a bus load of kids and dispatched them to carol at the homes of homebound parishioners. What joy I saw in their faces when greeted with the discordant version of Silent Night by the flock of children and adults at their doorstep.
Then there is April Fools Day, marked by For Sale signs that mysteriously appeared on neighbors lawns, or perhaps a toilet left over from a remodeling project dropped off next to their mailbox.
We are often now too busy to think about engaging our neighbors on holidays, and are missing a lot of joy and camaraderie as a result.