Wednesday, April 4, 2012

A 19th Century May Day Custom

Don't you just love old customs? Besides making handcrafted items from past times, I also enjoy learning the history behind them. To me, it just makes it that much more interesting. Sometimes I make something as close to the original as possible, but sometimes, like this instance, I take the custom and create my own little keepsake that was inspired by the ways of the past.

I was going to take a break from making and selling my work online for a couple of months, but with May coming up in a few weeks, I thought I'd make some of my little May Dew baskets. I have a limited amount of these to offer, and then I must move on to home renovations and yard work. :)

Here's my original description from a few years back for the
May Dew Gathering Baskets:
I adore reading 19th century books for young ladies, explaining all the dos and don’ts of etiquette and how to stay occupied, particularly with one’s hands. While reading a book written for young girls in 1887, I learned that according to traditions of merrie England, maids and matrons would go out bright and early on the first day of May and wash their faces in the dew. The dew, they believed, held magical qualities, which kept them looking young and beautiful for a year. Some ladies even went so far as to gather and save the glistening dew to moisten their faces until May 1st came ‘round again.

To continue this quaint custom, I have made for your pleasure May Dew Gathering Baskets. Just imagine this May, you and your friend, sister, mother, daughter, or granddaughter rising early on the first morn of May and gathering your very own May Dew! What a sweet memory to cherish forever!

Using instructions from an early 19th century ladies book, I fashioned a miniature basket from aged watercolor paper and black wire. On the front is a May Day poem printed on aged parchment paper which reads: “Ho! The merrie first of Maie, Bryngs the daunce & blossoms gaie, To make of lyfe a holiday.” I’ve made a little nest of crinkled shredded paper, and upon that nest rests a tiny brown glass apothecary jar with cork. I made a little stained parchment label for the jar that reads “May Dew”. The basket is signed and dated on the bottom, Lana Manis 2012. The basket measures 4” tall including the handle; the diminutive May Dew jar is 1 1/2” tall without the cork. These are fiddly little pieces, and take some time with all the aging, measuring, cutting, and manipulation of paper, but I think you will like them!

~ May Dew Gathering Basket with Mini Apothecary Bottle ~
$20 each
plus $5.50 priority shipping; if outside the US, please email me for shipping.
I accept check, money order, and PayPal payments.
Email to purchase

I can ship several baskets in a $5.50 priority package, so if you would like to order more than one, just let me know and I can send you a revised invoice.

Have a lovely, blessed day!


  1. What a wonderful tradition and the bottle you created is sooo charming!

  2. Very sweet Lana! Thank you for sharing with all of us. These baskets are just adorable!