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Today I want to introduce a German tradition to you, that takes place in May. I´m talking about the so called Maibaum (maypole).
A Maibaum is a decorated tree or at least stock of tree that is usually aufgerichtet (erected) on May the 1st. In some regions it is already put up on the eve of May the 1st. Mostly it is combined with a traditional celebration on the Dorfplatz (village square). First of all in Baden-Württemberg, Bayern (Bavaria) and Österreich (Austria).
The tradition is widespread in many regions in Central and Northern Europe. But in Skandinavien (Scandinavia) it normally takes place in Mittsommer (midsummer). In Switzerland they don´t have the tradition of the Maibaum.
Maypoles are normally big decorated trees that are put up on a central place in a village or town at a feastful Veranstaltung (event). Depending on the region, or even the village, the decoration of the tree could be totally different.
Either a new tree is chopped down every year, or the same trunk is being used for a couple of years and only the “Krone” (crown) gets a new decoration. In Ostfriesland for example, the trunk is stored under water and fetched again for May.
Normally the people peel the trunks and decorate them with colorful Girlanden (festoons), fir sprigs or crepe paper.
On the upper end, the tree is normally crowned with a Kranz (collar) and the green tree top. The trees have a height of 20 – 25 m. But sometimes they reach even 50 m. Depending on the local tradition, the maypoles stay until the end of the month or until autumn.
Beside the big maypoles, there is also the tradition of so called “Liebesmaien” or “Maien”. These are smaller trees, mostly Birken (birch trees), that are put up by single men. They install the tree at the houses of their girlfriends (or their wannabes) to show them their love. The answer is normally a crate of beer or a dinner. At least if the answer is positive. But here again, the traditions are different from region to region. In my region for example they say, if you put up a “Maien” three years for the same girl, you have to marry her. I did it two times when I was young 🙂
After all I think the Maibaum is a nice tradition and it´s nice to tour around the villages and have a look at the different trees.
Do you have something like the Maibaum in your country or region as well? It would be nice to learn about similar traditions! Tell us by using the comment field.
Some vocabulary to this post:
Der Maibaum – maypole
aufrichten – to erect
Der Dorfplatz – village square
Bayern – Bavaria
Österreich – Austria
Skandinavien – Scandinavia
der Mittsommer – midsummer
die Veranstaltung – event
die Krone – crown
die Girlande – festoon
der Kranz – collar
die Birke – birch trees