Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Ever heard of a 'Maibaum'? - A German tradition on 1st May

There is a very particular tradition for young, unmarried men in the Rhineland, where I come from, which is erecting a maypole (well, it's more a 'may tree') outside the house of their loved one.

Used is a birch tree and you can buy them like Christmas trees or go into the forest and cut it yourself in areas that have been approved for this by the forest rangers. A good size and nice crown of the tree is essential and it is then decorated with coloured crepe paper and a so-called 'Maiherz', a heart-shaped name plate made of wood or strong cardboard on which the name of the beloved one is written.

In the night to/early morning of 1st May the young men and their mates go around and erect the trees outside the houses.

The tree will stand for a month, until 1st June. It is then picked up by the young man who put it up and as a reward he will get a crate of beer from the young woman's father.

Here is an example of a 'Maibaum'. As you can see they are usually quite big.
Timber framed house with 'Maibaum' in Königswinter.
Photography by Kleuske

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