The Maypole, a Bavarian tradition

Recently, Boris and I visited Langengeisling near Erding in Bavaria, to partake in their celebration of May Day.

On the first day of May, many towns throughout Bavaria erect their own Maibaum {Maypole} in the town centre. This century old tradition signals the commencement of spring.

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The towns people come together in celebration to raise the Maibaum, often with manpower alone. Each and every Maibaum is uniquely decorated with ribbons, wreaths or signs denoting local craftsmen, guilds and associations. As a directory of the craftsmen in the town where it stands, historically, the Maibaum served much more of a utilitarian function than it does today.

It takes dedication, grit and pure strength from about a sixty burly men to hoist the Maibaum. Something we are sure our very own ‘Bavarian Strongmen’ would be proud to be a part of! Inch by inch the Maibaum is raised using smaller lifting poles, traditionally called “Schwalben” or “Scharrstangen” that have been stripped of the bark and slung together at the top by thick rope. The Maibaum is slowly hoisted into a pre-prepared hole or nowadays into a steel base frame. Back in the day, once the Maibaum was firmly anchored in place, it was the job of the “Maibaumkraxler” to scale the Maypole, attach the wreath and make it safely back down to the ground again, for the commencement of the festivities. Today the towns erupt with colourful parades, music, food and drink.

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This is a custom that is steeped in tradition, which is one of the many reasons why it is close to our hearts. Being in Langengeisling for this celebration has been the highlight of our year. To top it all off, Boris got to help! Stationed at one of the Schwalben, he hoisted the Maibaum together with the “Burschenverein” {Young Farmer’s association} who are the driving force behind the preservation of this beautiful tradition.

 

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