May Day in Bavaria
The Maibaum (May Pole) festival in Bavaria takes place around the Workers' Day long weekend at the end of April, beginning of May. Each spring, villagers gather at town squares to gab and play, eat and drink and dance to a band while the men raise the May Pole.
Bavarian tradition is to cut down a very tall tree some days before the event to paint it blue and white, prepare its decorative signs indicating the town's various trades, and to protect it from neighbouring villages attempting to steal it – in addition to bragging rights, the customary ransom is kegs of beer.
Some communities still forgo the use of modern machinery for the old-fashioned method of raising the May Pole. Using pairs of long sticks connected at the ends with thick rope slings, the men gradually prod the tree from its horizontal starting point to stand vertically in the centre of town. This method requires the orchestration of a conductor, several hours to carefully elevate the tree from its tip down to its base without snapping under its own weight, and lots of beer breaks.
© Elizabeth Willoughby 2012
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