The first of May (or Protomayia in Greek) is a national holiday in Greece. While the politically minded stay behind in the cities to demonstrate, for most Greeks May Day is a great urban holiday and an excuse to leave the city behind and enjoy a day of picnicking in the countryside.
Spring wildflowers are at their peak by the beginning of May, growing in great abundance and variety in fields and at roadside alike. Taking full advantage of nature’s bounty, a key May Day tradition in Greece is the making of a wreath or stefani of wild flowers to mark the day. The wreath is then taken home and hung above the front door as a means of welcoming spring into the house and celebrating nature and the changing of seasons.
My mother-in-law Kyria Eleni is a champion forager and keeps a set of clippers in her glove box in case she spies an especially enticing flower or bit of foliage while out driving. She is obviously not alone in this practice as country lanes (and highways, too) on May Day are edged with cars pulled to the side of the road waiting for someone to return clutching a free bouquet.
This year, I am celebrating May Day in Los Angeles rather than Greece. Since my own garden is in full flower at the moment, I figured that I should take advantage of the materials that I had at hand for my May Day wreath. As a base, I used a length of dried grape vine that I had saved after pruning my vines last winter. I soaked it in warm water to soften it up and then twisted it around itself a few times to form a nice sized hoop. The twisting has the added advantage of leaving spots that are just the right size to snugly hold a flower stem in place. For flowers, my wreath has various roses and geraniums, bougainvillea and lavender. For a bit of green: sweet marjoram and mint, pelargonium and scented geranium leaves. It is now suspended from a ribbon at the top of my front door. Not strictly traditional, but I think Kyria Eleni would be proud.