The Tradition of Hanging Maybaskets
One tradition unique to the Tobique River Valley region appears to be that of the springtime ritual of hanging maybaskets. No one is quite sure how or when the practice originated.
Myrtle (MacAskill) LeBel remembers making and hanging maybaskets when she was a child in Riley Brook in the 1920's. She learned how to make them from her mother. Georgie (Lovean) McAskill remembers delivering maybaskets when she was growing up in the village of Plaster Rock. My own mother, Dorothy (Crone) Corey, learned how to make maybaskets growing up in Maple View, also in the 1920's, by which time it appears to have been an established tradition.
Maybaskets are an intricately fashioned hanging basket made from a sheet of tissue paper, or for more ornate creations, two sheets of tissue of contrasting colours. When complete, they are carefully pulled into shape. A piece or two of candy, or if that isn't available, a small rock, is placed in the bottom to weigh the basket down.
On May 1st, usually in the early evening, the basket is "delivered" and hung on the doorknob of a lucky recipient. The deliverer knocks on the door, and promptly runs away, while the recipient chases after them. When finally caught, the deliverer is rewarded with a kiss from the recipient.
The practice of children hanging neighbourly maybaskets is no longer a common occurrence on May 1st. There are few people who even remember how to make them any more. The Plaster Rock Public School Library occasionally invites someone in to the library to demonstrate how to make maybaskets, and keep the tradition alive. The following step by step pictures were taken at the library in 2008, when Wendy Hennigar shared her maybasket creating skills with the Story Hour children and their mothers.
Step 1 - Begin with an absolutely square sheet of tissue paper. Fold in half diagonally.
Step 2 - Fold the far right corner over to meet the far left corner.
Step 3 - Repeat Step 2.
Step 4: Follow the photograph, bringing one edge of the folded triangle, over the the longest edge.
Step 5: Time to begin cutting.
Step 6: Make small alternating horizontal cuts partway through your folded basket; begin from the bottom, cutting first from one side, then from the other. Make your cuts about a third to half an inch apart - too close, and your maybasket won't hold its shape; too far apart, and it won't have the feathery quality of a well made maybasket.
Step 7: Cutting complete. Now it is time to carefully unfold your maybasket, bringing two of the edges together at the top, and putting a small weight in the bottom to hold it down. Fashion a handle from scraps of tissue paper, either by folding, twisting or braiding, and secure to the top with tape or a staple.
(see photo above for a finished maybasket)
Step 8: Don't forget to hang your maybasket!!