I could not wait to tell you about our May Day here in town, well actually its eve… Hexennacht (witches night), so here it is, still time left in the May Day clock and I am typing away. Last night, Hexennacht, we went to our village fire department for a May Day celebration. We had an absolute blast! Beer, brats, Brock, AND the raising of a Maibaum, May Tree.
May Day in Germany, is a two part holiday… In ancient times the festival would welcome Spring and drive away evil spirits. The eve of May day, witches night, is one last frolic for witches, and in our area that means the older kids cause a little trouble, similar to mischief night in the USA. Thanks to our late setting sun, Fil and I watched the kids walk down the street with their bags filled with toilet paper to toss around. When we walked in the morning, Brock was very distressed by the mess the “bad guys” had left. Luckily it was a pretty windy night, so there wasn’t much left to clean up.
With this ancient institution is the tradition of raising a Maibaum, a May pole or tree. The different regions in Germany have different traditions for what that tree looks like, but for our town it was a birch, stripped of most its branches. At the fire department on hexennacht we enjoyed brats and some drinks while the kids decorated the tree with streamers. The best part was next… raising of the tree. We had a few drinks at this point, so it may have been more amusing than it actually was, but we are glad we were able to share in the tradition.
As you might remember from a previous blog, our village is actually a combination of multiple villages… who keep their local pride some 50 years after joining together. At the fest my friend warned that the Weiersbach crew may come and cut the tree down that night… they had last year and left a sign in its place. Apparently it is a common tradition for neighboring villages to steal the Maibaum of their neighbors, but I feel like here in Hoppstadten-Weiersbcah that takes on another level. Traditionally, if the tree is stolen a large ransom of beer is paid, but when it is cut I don’t know what happens. Some really have fun with this tradition. In 2004, some clever thieves used a helicopter to steal a May tree in Bavaria!
Well, it happened. We walked down in the morning to see if the tree was still there and Brock was quite upset that the “bad guys”, as he says, had cut down the tree.
But like I said, the holiday has two parts… aside from all the fun it is a Federal Holiday to celebrate worker’s rights. In bigger cities there are often rallies and protests, but out here in the country everything is closed and people just enjoy a day off. For some, a day off after partying with the witches 🙂 . The workers day celebrations can be traced to 1886 in Chicago and the Haymarket strike. In memory of the horror of that day, Germany celebrated the first Labor Day in 1890 in demand of better working conditions, including the 8 hour work day which was agreed upon later in 1918.
For us, the eve of May Day was a fun little fest at the firehouse. Fun all around. Brock had the day off from school for the holiday and we ended up just staying home after a quick walk in the morning. The weather really cooled down so Brock said he didn’t want to go to the castle, just stay home and watch LEGO Batman, his new favorite. Fil had to work. He doesn’t get the German Labor Day off, but he does get the American version off later in the year.