May Day Traditions! The Tussie-Mussie or May Day Basket

By Diane Chase

May 1st is always a celebration of spring. Whether you choose to give a May Day Basket or a Tussie-Mussie, it is a wonderful way to highlight the change in seasons.

The May Day basket dates back to ancient Roman festivals of spring. Pick or buy a bouquet of flowers and arrange place them in a basket. Secretly place them on the door of a neighbor. This an excellent activity for you to do with your children as it gives them a sense of doing something altruistic. It is a kind gesture and can bring a sense of community.

A tussie-mussie is a nosegay of flowers and herbs bound together by a ribbon or a doily and chosen for the message it conveys. This old-fashioned nosegay or posy delivers a message to the recipient. The sentiment is entirely up to the maker of the tussie-mussie. Use roses and myrtle to express love or lavender to show happiness.

Don’t forget to add a card which clearly defines the meanings of each plant included in the tussie-mussie so your sentiments will not be misinterpreted.

Gather the kids round the table, and teach them about floriography, the language of flowers.

Materials Needed
A large flower for the tussie-mussie center
Scissors or small pruners
Paper doily
Curling ribbon or raffia
Floral tape (substitute string)
Index card
Filler plants such as baby's breath, pansies, violets or herbs.


Use the partial list of flowers to gather plants for the tussie-mussie. Cut the plants in four to six inch lengths. Strip the bottom leaves from the flowers. Hold the main flowers in one hand, and place filler plants around the perimeter. Arrange large leaves such as ivy around the outer edge of the tussie-mussie center to frame it. For a professional look secure all stems with floral tape. With children I just tightly wind string around the stems from top to bottom. This forms a trunk. Cut a hole in the middle of the doily. Insert the trunk of the tussie-mussie plants into the doily and secure the base of it with floral tape. Cover the trunk with the ribbon or raffia from the bottom to the base of the doily.

Use the index cards to write a brief sentiment and explanation.

Victorian Language of Flowers*

American Elm Patriotism
Anemone Forsaken
Arbor Vitae Unchanging friendship.
Barberry Sourness of temper
Clover Think of me
Cedar Leaf I live for thee
Daffodil Regard
Daisy Innocence, new-born
Forget-me-not True love. Forget me not
Foxglove Insincerity
Golden Rod Precaution
Honeysuckle Bonds of love
Heather Admiration
Ivy Fidelity. Marriage
Jasmine Amiability
Mountain Laurel Ambition
Locust Tree Elegance
Marigold/Cypress Despair
Myrtle Fidelity
Narcissus Egotism
Oats The witching soul of music.
Palm Victory
Pansy Thoughts
Sweet Pea Departure
Quince Temptation
Rose, red Love
Rose, pink Grace, beauty
Rose, yellow Friendship
Rosemary Remembrance, constancy
Snapdragon Presumption
Sweet William Gallantry
Scotch Thistle Retaliation
Variegated Tulip Beautiful eyes
Valerian An accommodating disposition
Violet Loyalty, modesty, humility
Water Lily Purity of heart
Witch Hazel A spell
Yew Sorrow
Zinnia Thoughts of absent friends

* from the book The Language of Flowers by Henrietta Dumont (1803)


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