Yesterday was May Day.
When I was living in Germany, especially within the Bavarian region, where my husband grew up, on May 1st, 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.
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.
Aufstellen of the Maibaum is a very important spring festival. Many Bavarian villages have a club known as “Burschenverein” that could be compared to a Young Farmer’s association.
Before the 1st of May, men in the Burschenverein spend several days in the woods choosing a tall straight pine tree, fell the tree and then they must hide this enormous tree for safe keeping from thieves. It’s a tradition that inhabitants from other villages will try to steal their neighbors maypole. This is in good fun but also taken seriously. If a village succeeds in stealing a maypole, they hold it ransom until negotiations of massive amounts of beer and food are decided upon.
Every year, we try and do a May Day celebration of some sort. 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.
This year, we had a friend, Mommy Manders, who often has storytime, camps, seminars and volunteer opportunities for children, adults and families in Dallas. Today she had an “Aufstellen des Maibaums.” Needless to say, I was excited.
She made a Maypole, DIY info, and then had each child hold a colorful ribbon and march, walk, and twirl around the Maypole.
Then we changed direction and repeated the 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.
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?
Also, I’ve written several posts about German events and schools if you are interested in connecting more with the German community of Dallas. Or more from Mommy Manders who is just absolutely amazing!!!