May baskets made by Sharon Richardson are available at Seaside Deli & Sweets in Northeast Harbor. PHOTO COURTESY OF JENNIFER KELLEY

Reviving a fading tradition

MOUNT DESERTAs the month of April draws to an end, some remember the fading tradition of May Basket Day where people fill festively decorated baskets with small gifts and hang them on the doors of friends, neighbors and loved ones on May 1. 

The custom evokes feelings of nostalgia for folks like Sharon Richardson of Mount Desert. “I’ve been making [May baskets] since I was 6 years old. Us girls all around the dining room table, mom would throw the crate, paper, pipe cleaners and these little dixie cups, and away we went,” she said. Richardson remembers spending hours preparing the baskets and then delivering them around town with her seven siblings.  

“We would put goodies like flowers or candy in themthen we would bring them to someone’s door, ring the doorbell and run like heck…whoever gets it has to catch you before they can keep the basket. If you have a crush on someone, your crush has to kiss you on the cheek to get the goodies,” said Richardson. She has since carried on the same tradition with her children and grandchildren. 

At one point, Richardson and a friend made thousands of May baskets for Shirley’s Yarns Crafts & Gifts in Hancock and for Frank’s bakery in Bangor to sell.  

“In Bangor, a lot of people buy them for people that are in the hospital because the older folks in the nursing homes remember those things,” she said.  

Richardson is currently making her baskets to sell at Seaside Deli and Sweets to-go eatery in Northeast Harbor. “I think it’s a Maine thing, but then again I’m not sure, said Richardson. “I try to keep the tradition going because it’s fun and exciting. 

Ninah Rein

Ninah Rein

Writer at Mount Desert Islander
Ninah Rein, an MDI native, covers news and features in the Bar Harbor area. She is glad to be back in Maine after earning a bachelor's degree in San Diego from the University of California.
Ninah Rein

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