Pioneer Potluck: About May Day

1940s and 50s to present day

On a farm in Northern Colorado


I loved May Day when I was growing up in the 1940s.

At school we cut various colors of crêpe paper in long streamers and wound it around the tether-ball pole at recess. Each of us got a long streamer of crepe paper, ducked and dipped under and over and wove it around the pole, then stood back and admired all its pretty colors. We were so proud of ourselves.

We made May Day baskets after we got through with arithmetic, spelling, writing, geography and history. In the afternoon, we cleared our desks and each chose the color of two pieces of construction paper. I always chose purple and yellow for the handle. We learned how to cut, fold and paste our little baskets. In the 7th and 8th grades I was the appointed instructor.

The little baskets when finished were about 2 inches square and about 4 inches high. I made three, one for my Mom, one for my Grandma Cogswell and one for our neighbor, Jessi Aranci. Mom would pick us up from school. We would carefully get into the car so we would not smash our baskets. The first thing I would say to Mom was, can I go pick lilacs for the baskets, and she would always nod her head yes. This is the only time Mom would let us pick lilacs from her French Lilac bush. The smell still lingers in my mind.

That was the only time she would NOT tell us to go change our clothes right after school, because after we picked the lilacs and put a cupcake or cookie in the basket, tied a ribbon on the basket handle, we would load back into the car, (yes, the pea-green Dodge) to go hang a basket on our neighbor and Grandma’s door.

At Grandma and Grandpa’s I would quietly sneak up and hang the pretty basket on the door knob, knock and then you were supposed to run and hide. I always hung around because I wanted to see the smile and surprise on Grandma’s face. The tradition is if they catch you hanging the basket on the door knob, you get a kiss. I loved Grandma’s kisses! Grandma and Grandpa lived in a basement house with a window right where the door lead down the stairs, so they could see who was at the door. They were good a faking surprises.

Mom made cupcakes or cookies for us to put in the basket and when we got back from delivering the baskets we got one too. I loved May Day and I smile now just remembering how happy that day was. Flowers blooming, robins running around the yard, green grass and the smell of blooming lilacs. The dandelions poking up. What more could a little girl ask – except maybe a chocolate cupcake with a big mound of chocolate frosting.

How times have changed! I asked my sisters and a few friends what they remember about May Day. They are all younger than I and they do not remember celebrating May Day. I stopped making May Day baskets in the 8th grade. When my kids were little, I made baskets to take to their Grandma (my mom) on May Day, so they could give her flowers. Guess what the flowers were? Dandelions!! Mom was so pleased and always put them in a small vase of water.

When the kids saw the first dandelion, it was picked and proudly brought into me to put in a vase on the table. Usually David spied the first one.

Bob and I celebrate it by looking forward to seeing the first robin in the lawn. Then we say – we should call Shirley De Vault and tell her we have a robin in our yard! When she was our smiling neighbor she would call us to say she just saw the first robin in her yard. Somehow the robins stopped at her place first!


My goodness how times have changed!! I still look forward to the First of May, robins and dandelions. I think I may even bake come chocolate cupcakes and pile on the frosting – chocolate of course.


The Grannie Annie series is written by a 47 year resident of Alaska, Ann Berg of Nikiski.Ann shares her collections of recipes from family and friends. She has gathered recipes for more that 50 years. Some are her own creation. Her love of recipes and food came from her Mother, a self taught wonderful cook. She hopes you enjoy the recipes and that the stories will bring a smile to your day.

Grannie Annie can be reached at anninalaska@gci. net


Cookbooks make great gifts!

The “Grannie Annie” Cook Book Series includes: “Grannie Annie’s Cookin’ on the Woodstove”; “Grannie Annie’s Cookin’ at the Homestead”; “Grannie Annie’s Cookin’ Fish from Cold Alaskan Waters”; and “Grannie Annie’s Eat Dessert First.” They are available at M & M Market in Nikiski.

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