1st May is maypole day in Bavaria
1st May is maypole day in Bavaria and a day for the local folklore group dressed in their finest costumes to gather all the villagers together to celebrate this important annual occasion. Each and every maypole is uniquely decorated with ribbons, wreaths or signs denoting local craftsmen’s guilds. Soon it is time for the brass band to tune up and accompany the dancers well into the night. A traditional dark “Maibock“ beer is brewed especially for the occasion.
The hoisting of a maypole is an important part of all spring festivities. Most Bavarian villages have a club known as the “Burschenverein” that is akin to Young Farmer’s associations. Long before the 1st May the young men of the Burschenverein go out to the woods to choose a tall straight pine tree that is then felled and hidden away for safe keeping.
The earliest reports of Maypoles, as a symbol of all things that grow and bear fruit, date back to the 13th century. Today the Maypole reflects the wealth of the paticular community.
Part of this whole tradition is that one village tries to steal the maypole from the neighbours. If they succeed the safe return of the maypole is up for negotiation with ransoms involving copious quantities of beer and food. Some "Burschenvereine" have specialised in stealing the maypoles that are most closely watched by the strongest security. Maypole stealing is governed by a pretty strict code of conduct: sawing or damaging the maypole in any way is absolutely frowned upon as is a non-payment of the ransom. The most spectacular theft occurred back in 2004 when cunning thieves stole the maypole from the top of the Zugspitze using a helicopter. Once the 20 m long maypole had been safely flown to an Alpine hut negotiations began to determine how much ransom would be paid for its return. Rumour has it that the there were copious quantities of food and the beer flowed freely all night.
Hoisting the maypole is a really tough job that makes most men break out in a sweat. It is raised using smaller trees that have been stripped of the bark and slung together at the top by thick rope together with a whole lot of muscle power. Centimetre by centimetre the maypole is slowly hoisted into a pre-prepared hole. Once firmly anchored in place it is decorated with signs indicating local craftsmen’s guilds and topped with a wreath from which sausages, bacon, wine and schnapps bottles are hung. Fixing the wreath in place is the job of the "Maibaumkraxler" who has to scale the maypole, attach the wreath and make it safely back down to the ground again. When all the work is done its time to celebrate with Bavarian brass band music and dancing long into the night.
Maypole dates and places to enjoy this Bavarian custom in 2017 - a selection :
Raising of the maypole in Bischofsgrün in the Fichtelgebirge
where: Marktplatz in Bischofsgrün
when: 01.05.2017 at 2.00 pm
Traditional raising the of the Maypole on the marketplace in the center of Bischofsgrün in the Fichtelgebirge. Date: Friday, 01 May 2015. At 14:00 pm the parade starts at the primary school along with the Maypole, which is carried by hand, and musical entertainment by the Fichtelgebirge Ebnath chapel. During raising of the maypole, there is a concert taking place. Food&Drink available. All tourists and guests are welcome.
Raising of the maypole in East Bavaria
Raising of the maypole at Wasmeier Freilichtmuseum Schliersee
where: Markus Wasmeier open air museum
when: 01.05.2017, 11.30 am
Munich & surrounding
Raising the maypole in Jettenbach
when: 01.05.2017, 9.30 am followed by dancing around the maypole
Raising the maypole in Grasbrunn
where: Sports ground
when: 01.05.2017, from 9.00 am
Raising the maypole in the Allgäu/Bayerisch Schwaben:
www.allgaeu.de (German only)