The May Day tradition dates waaaay back. Although not an extremely popular holiday in America, May Day is a principle holiday in many other cultures. May 1st is related to the Celtic festival of Beltane, and the Germanic festival of Walpurgis Night. In many cultures, May Day is also synonymous with International Workers’ Day.
The Maypole is probably the most recognizable May Day tradition. The May Pole originated in Europe, and began as a tree which was cut down and stripped of its branches (in Europe, trees symbolized vitality and fertility and were often used in Spring festivals), then decorated and carried through town in a parade.
Today, most Americans celebrate May Day not by cutting down a tree and carrying it through town, but by filling small baskets with treats and small gifts. When filling your May Day basket this year, here are some fun and healthy alternatives for you to consider.
- Treats: You have a number of options when it comes to sweets. Substitute healthier options (boxes of raisins or dried fruit) for candy or do a little of both. While kids’ fruit snacks do have sugar, at least they usually contain vitamin C. Dark chocolate is healthier than milk or white chocolate because of its antioxidants. Real fruit might be fun to include—perhaps mangos, papayas, or pomegranates would be unusual and feel special when included in the basket.
- Small Toys: You could do board games, accessories for or pieces of train tracks, doll clothes, hand-held games, card games, and other small toys.
- Tickets: You could buy tickets to a children’s theater performance, the zoo, a sporting event, a museum, an upcoming movie, a skating rink—there are tons of fun places to go for kids and families.
- Arts and Crafts: My kids love art supplies. We’re always running low, and using new crayons or paints feels like a special treat. You can include items such as markers, crayons, stickers, paints, brushes, art paper, coloring books, beads, and small craft sets.
- Outdoor Gear: Spring is a great time to get kids some new outdoor gear. Balls, kids’ gardening tools, kites, small racket games, pool toys—there are a ton of fun toys out there for kids, and (alas) we all know how often they get lost and need to be replaced.
- Books: Between the classics and books newly in print, there are a plethora of books out there that you and your kids will cherish for years.