1. Mai – May Day
Today is one of these days when I get a bit homesick because I know that many of my friends are celebrating right now and are having a good time. And that’s because tomorrow is the first day of May “Der 1. Mai” which is an official holiday in all states of Germany and it is the official Labor Day in Germany and many other countries in Europe. The “1. Mai” is a big day for political marches for the rights of workers. One of the largest rally occurs annually in Kreuzberg, an multi cultural area of Berlin and it attracts many political activists. The majority of Germans will skip politics though and rather join one of many May celebrations. The “1. Mai” is celebrated throughout the country and there are lots of different traditions depending on which part of Germany you live.
First of all the German Maibaum (May tree) is set up on May 1st or mostly the day before. The tree (or pole) is decorated with colorful streamers, flowers and in some places with scenes showing local crafts or activities. And in many towns there is an official dance around the tree, often at the end of a parade organized by local societies. In the “Rheinland” (Rhineland) where I come from there is also the custom that the guys bring a self-made Maibaum to the houses of their loved ones or the ones they have a crush on.
The celebration of May Day starts actually the night before with “Tanz in den Mai” (Dance into May). On April 30th many towns have celebrations, often there are “Festzelte” (big tents) where people get together to dance and party. Many people start firing up their BBQ and there is even a special beer, the “Maibock” brewed just for the occasion. “Tanz in Mai” has become a huge thing and many clubs in big cities plan events around this dancing tradition.
It is also associated with Walpurgisnacht or Hexennacht (Witches’ Night). German folklore says witches would meet on the peak of the Brocken within the Harz mountains to revel with the Devil. To this day, women in the Harz area (and beyond) will dress up and go dance on the mountain top.
I don’t think I’m gonna dress up tonight, but we will start the BBQ now, I will definitely have a beer and I think I might dance as well. Happy May Day!
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