A Tradition In Hotdish Land

Written by: Rodney Wilson

In the trees I lurk, scanning the back door of a house on our block in the small town of Maddock, North Dakota. Am I up to something? Well, sort of. Today is May 1st…May Day. In my hand I have a small cup of candy, decorated with a handle made from a pipe cleaner and ribbons cut into short pieces and curled with a scissor. It’s a May Basket, folks, and it needs to be delivered to Susan, that cute girl from my 3rd Grade class.


Never heard of May Day or May Day baskets? Well in Hotdish Land (thanks to Amy Allender), we start to decorate our May Baskets in early April.


**May Day is a European festival of ancient origins marking the beginning of summer, usually celebrated on the first of May, or around halfway between the spring equinox and summer solstice.[1][2]Festivities may also be held the night before, known as May Eve. Traditions often include gathering wildflowers and green branches, weaving floral garlands, crowning a May Queen (sometimes with a male companion), and setting up a Maypole, May Tree or May Bush, around which people dance. Bonfires are also part of the festival in some regions. Regional varieties and related traditions include Walpurgis Night in central and northern Europe, the Gaelic festival Beltane the Welsh festival Calan Mai, and May devotions to the Blessed Virgin Mary. It has also been associated with the ancient Roman festival Floralia.


In Maddock, we took our handmade May baskets (cups, baskets, whatever works) to school on May 1st. All of our classmates would also have May Baskets prepared, and we would exchange them. Like Halloween and Valentine’s Day, this was an out and out enjoyable day as each basket would contain at least 5 pieces of candy, and maybe a cookie. But there was one caveat to this carefully orchestrated celebration that happened right after 2:30 PM recess, that being that you withheld the May Basket of that special girl (or boy) to be delivered in person that evening. Yep, unbeknownst to Susan, I was madly “in like” with her. She noticed my May Basket was missing from her collection and stared directly at me. Let the game begin, Susan. Your May Basket will be delivered tonight.


Wow, what I probably forgot to include in my explanation of May Day was how Susan’s May Day basket would be delivered. I would move quietly out of the trees trying to avoid any windows where Susan could see me coming. I would pause by the door, and slowly maneuver the May Basket into place. One knock on the door and I was off! Susan, who’s goal it would be to catch me, and KISS me, was in immediate pursuit, right behind. Down the street I would run, sprinting as fast as I could. To my right I would see another one of my classmates in pursuit of a young lady who had played the drop and run May Day game with him. I remember thinking, “I didn’t know they liked each other”.

May Baskets ready for delivery.


I wasn’t then, and really am not to this day, either a fast sprinter or a long distance runner. Susan caught me and planted a huge kiss right on my lips (wheeeew…on the lips). However, we both came up smiling. Me, because I actually had a girl chasing me, and Susan because the challenge was met, and she would emerge the winner…well sort of. As I think back, maybe I really did want Susan to catch me.


Several years later, I would happen to marry a Sue (different one) and believe it or not, she still carried on the kind of lost tradition of making and delivering May Baskets. Our kids would take them to school and give them to their teachers, cooks, and lunchroom ladies. Now that the kids are gone, Sue carries on the tradition of making May Baskets. The drop and run tradition died quite a few years ago, but the smiles created by these tiny gifts of good will has not.


Do they still have the May Day tradition back in Maddock, which by the way is right smack in the middle of Hotdish Land? I really don’t know. But in our house, the tradition will go on. And by the way, I fully expect to chase my spouse, Sue, at least a couple of steps once she delivers her May Basket to me. But over 45 years of marriage she has gotten pretty easy to catch….then a kiss….then a smile.

Best Kept Secrets
Summer is sure to arrive any day, right? Plenty of time for walking outdoors, but where? Visit Minot has a great map on their website of trails within the city limits of Minot and other trails within driving distance. There are nature trails at Des Lacs, Upper Souris and at J Clark Sayler wildlife refuges. There are both auto and walking trails, depending on your desire. If you have questions, send me an email at sentrysales@ srt.com.

Today’s Chuckle
Nature gave us a biological clock; medicine gave us drugs to turn off the alarm.

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