Maypole ()

When one thinks of witches, devils and partying, they tend to think of Halloween. Revealing secret crushes and professing undying love is associated with Valentine’s Day. And within the history of the 8-hour workday and labor regulations, the American Labor Day in September is the most obvious holiday connection. However, Germany combines ideas from all of these holidays into one huge holiday, May 1st, also known as May Day.

History: May Day is a German public holiday where most shops, banks, post offices and businesses are closed. This holiday calls for multi-day preparation and partying. May Day as a concept dates back to the Iron Age (1200 B.C.E. to 600 B.C.E.). However, some traditions from May Day as we know it today only date back to the Middle Ages. It is meant to welcome Spring weather and ward away evil spirits.

May Tree/Maypole: The Maibaum, known as the May Tree or Maypole, dates back to 16th century Germany. The tree is adorned with flowers, streamers and sometimes local arts and crafts, then usually placed in a prominent spot in town. Celebrations and food accompany the raising of the pole, but the real work is ensuring that a neighboring town doesn’t steal your pole.

Walpurgisnacht/Hexennacht and Tanz in den Mai: The night of April 30th is known as the Witches’ Night. It was believed that on this night, witches would go up the mountain and commune with devils. This night has also been combined with the celebration of an English nun, St. Walburga, who cured locals of many illnesses according to Nowadays, people dance the night away, either up on mountains or at sea level, from April 30th to May 1st (Dance into May).

International Workers' Day/Extra Vacation: In Berlin, and many other larger cities, International Workers’ Day is celebrated with demonstrations and partying in the streets. The largest demonstrations happen in Berlin’s Kreuzberg district. If May Day happens to fall close to Ascension Day or the Pentecost weekend, it is not uncommon for Germans to take additional leave and go on a mini vacation.

Looking for Love: On top of protesting, dancing and Maypole duties, this is also a day to profess your love. There are several traditions you can follow. You can place a miniature May Tree in the yard of your beloved (particularly a birch sapling, according to some sources). You can also draw a chalk line from your house to theirs.

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