A-Tisket, A-Tasket, a Green and Yellow Basket

In this photograph from the early twentieth century, two little girls in Hartford’s Mazzafera family are holding baskets of flowers. When I was cataloguing the photograph a couple of years ago, I described the baskets as “Easter baskets.” Maybe they are. The first mention I can find of “Easter baskets” in the Hartford Courant, however, is a 1922 ad for “fancy baskets filled with Easter novelties.” This suggests that in Connecticut at least, Easter baskets were part of the twentieth-century commercialization of the holidays and not an enduring custom from early times. The tradition of May baskets filled with flowers and given as gifts on May 1st, appears to go much farther back. “May basket socials” were popular in Connecticut in the 1890s. The baskets that the two Mazzafera girls are holding are full of flowers, not novelities, so perhaps they are May baskets rather than Easter baskets. Or could they be something else altogether? The Mazzafera family were Roman Catholics and in addition to Easter would have celebrated Corpus Christi Day at the beginning of summer. Part of the traditional celebration of this religious holiday included a procession of little girls carrying baskets full of flowers. Whatever the holiday, the flowers symbolize the renewal of life and hope that comes with nature’s rebirth after the dreariness of winter.

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