The Maibaum

by May 9, 2023Observations0 comments

The 1st of May is not only the international workers day, it is also the Maibaum day. This particular day has a very long tradition in the German culture. After a thorough research I found some sources claiming that this tradition originates from the the 10th century, other sources claimed that it was from the 13th century while others insist that it was from the 16th century. Generally, the tradition of raising the Maibaum is done to celebrate the arrival of the spring. To honour the day, the villagers would dress in traditional attire, make music and dance around the Maibaum. They would also make a bonfire and serve local food and drinks.

The Maibaum is a long pole that is usually debranched and decorated with wreaths and colourful ribbons. It is then raised by young men either at the central town square or at the market place depending on whether it is a city, a town or a village. The whole process is done either on the 1st of May or the evening before. The young men would then have a night watch watch, drinking and having fun near the Maibaum to avoid the attempts of other young men from from the neighbouring village from either stealing or cutting it down.

As a small tree, the Maibaum is also used as a form of match making to inform the young women in the area that they have an admirer. Single young men would get a small tree, decorate it with colourful ribbons. They would engrave the names and place the tree in front of the houses of the women they admired. If the women they admired liked them in return, the young men would receive an invitation to diner, a crate of beer and if all went well, they would even receive a kiss.

 At 04:00 am on a Friday night, my colleague and I had just had sent out the last guests and started with the final touches of cleaning and refiling the fridges. We finished off with the calculation of the day’s revenue, paid ourselves out and shared the tip.

Scott, my bicycle was as always packed near the entrance. Through the glass façade, I could keep a closer watch over it. I unlocked it, flung my backpack on my back and rode through the empty city centre of Heilbronn. I took the Sulmer street straight towards the Kilian’s church. I turned right onto the Kaiser Street that I would follow all the way towards the main train station. The way from Bahnhof street to Grossgartach street was not so well lit, so I rode faster and observed any slight movements ahead or behind me. What made the path more uncomfortable was the narrow bicycle bridge that crossed the river Neckar.

During these mornings, the number of cars and people underway was minimal as most people would leave for work at around 05:00 am or 05:30 am. On this particular day, I arrived home at around 04:45 am and was surprised to find a small tree decorated with all possible colours of ribbons tied to our gate. I checked to see if any of our neighbours had something similar, this was not the case. I stored my bicycle securely and went into our apartment. My flatmate had just woken up and so we exchanged the usual morning greetings. As I headed towards the bathroom, I informed her that someone had tied a tree to our gate and engraved her name on it. She was overly excited as she ran out to confirm my statement. She came back even more excited and said that it was most probably from the guy she had gone to a date with.

She later on explained to me the custom of the Maibaum and I thought it was a little weird but somehow also romantic for a guy to have to go to the forest, cut down a tree ,decorate it and tie it to our gate as a sign of interest.

I took a shower and quickly went to sleep for the two hours before I had to go to school. Two days later, I finally met Admirer who had been been lucky to get an invitation for dinner. He was tall and handsome, polite and well mannered. One year later they were married and that’s how my 6 years shared apartment ended because of a Maibaum.

Written by Nessa

Foto von Jan Kopřiva auf Unsplash

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