Aufstellen des Maibaums aka Maypole

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When I was living in Germany, especially within the Bavarian region, where my husband grew up, on May 1, there would be a celebration “Aufstellen des Maibaums”(Erecting of Maypole). It is still unclear where this tradition originated from, but my husband was told that it dates back thousands of years to the Germanic tradition of honoring “forest gods”. A maypole (maibaum, meaning “may tree”) is a huge, heavy, tall, wooden pole made from a tree trunk. At the top, it is decorated with colorful ribbons, flowers, and usually carved or metal figures representing something of that particular village.

Maypole event near my husband's village Bavaria, Germany
Maypole event near my husband’s village
Bavaria, Germany

When the Maibaum (Maypole) is raised, which itself is a great site to watch with the biggest and strongest of men pushing this huge pole up and setting it into the ground, then a great festival follows with lots of traditional dancing, music and drinking (Bier and wurst naturally). In every village, once a Maibaum is put up to stand, within the village’s central square, then it stays there for 4-5 years. So every year, you have to find a nearby village to go and celebrate the Aufstellen (putting up) of the Maibaum.

This year, we thought to start a little Maypole tradition of our own. Since we are in Dallas, and no longer living in Germany, we want to continue to teach our children about their German culture as well as other cultural traditions, so we thought to have our own Maibaum in our front yard. For this, we will be gathering a few roses from our garden, glue those roses on a round styrofoam wreath (bought at a dollar store), and will tie ribbons hanging down from the styrofoam wreath. Children can even color the wreath, wrap it with the ribbons, or just put stickers on it(depending on age/ability for crafting). Hang the wreath in a tree outside. Then, each child and adult will hold a colorful ribbon and dance around the Maypole(our front yard tree) as we sing or maybe just march, skip, jump, dance, and then we will change direction and repeat our steps in reverse. This process of going around the pole one way and then reversing will cause the ribbons to unwind, giving us the opportunity to explain to our children how this symbolizes the lengthening of the days for summer.wisemommies maypole

A Maypole is used in many countries to celebrate holidays and special traditional events. Many Mexicans use a Maypole to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. Have you ever celebrated with a Maypole? If so, how, when, and for what event?

Our Family Friday Challenge, to you, is to make a Maypole celebration in your home. Take a moment to explain what a Maypole is, make one (depending on age, have older kids create one with you helping) and dance around the maypole talking about the lengthening of the summer days to come and what that means for your family. Ask your kids what they are looking forward to doing during the summer; more pool time, BBQ’s, no school, just playing outside more… We hope this simple, fun, crafty, cultural activity will have your family laughing and enjoying a Maypole moment together.

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2 thoughts on “Aufstellen des Maibaums aka Maypole”

  1. I think we’ll try making a small one with colored yarn for the kitchen table this year and perhaps take turns reminding each other why we look forward to summer. We’re not German or Mexican but still seems fun for the kids.

    • Thanks for replying Karen. I didn’t think about using yarn instead of ribbon. That’s a good idea! Are you familiar with the movie Frozen? We watched it tonight with our oldest son and at one part they showed a Maypole, and my son shouted out “oh look they have a Maypole.” So no, even if you aren’t German or Mexican, with every cultural experience, you are teaching them something that will help them understand so many things in this huge world they live in, give them the advantage of understanding more, and above all, just have fun with an easy craft….wonderful to hear that you are doing all of that with your children.


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