Party in the Merry (and Busy) Month of May

It’s just as well that May has 31 days.  There are plenty of German-style parties and festivities to explore, organize and attend in the merry month of May:  Walpurgisnacht (Dance of the Witches), Tag der Arbeit (German Labor Day), Vatertag(German Father’s Day, of course Muttertag (Mother’s Day), Goth Festival, Dance around the Maypole, Maifest and so much more. Explore some of the German traditions …


Our sister site TheTasteOfGermany offers Authentic German Mayfest specialties and gift packs!

 

The Night Before the First of May: Walpurgisnacht

In Germany, spring celebrations begin before May has even arrived. The spring festival known as Walpurgisnacht (Walpurgis night) is celebrated on the eve of May, April 30th. It’s alleged that witches await the arrival of spring that night on Brockenberg mountain, the highest peak in the Harz mountain range in northern Germany. Walpurgisnacht celebrations are marked by bonfires, dancing and the consumption of the traditional Maibowle (May punch). Click the following link and read more about Walpurgisnacht and daring Maibaum robberies…

May First

May 1st, the International Workers Day called “Tag der Arbeit” in Germany, is globally the most celebrated holiday to honor the contributions of workers, highlight labor issues, and advocate for social and economic justice. It’s also the Roman Catholic feast day of Saint Joseph, the patron saint of workers, craftsmen, and immigrants. The catalyst for May Day was the Haymarket affair in Chicago in on May 1, 1886, where a peaceful rally demanding an eight-hour workday turned violent, resulting in the deaths of several demonstrators and police officers. This event galvanized the labor movement, leading to the establishment of International Workers’ Day on May 1st, 1889, in Paris. The corresponding “Labor Day” in the US takes place in September, partly because that time is midway between Independence Day and Thanksgiving, and partly due to the political opposition in the US to the origin of May Day in Europe.

Dance Around the Maypole

The start of Maifest celebrations in Germany on May 1st is marked by erecting a Maibaum (maypole) on the village green. The Maibaum tradition dates back to the 16th century and is most widely celebrated in southern Germany (Bavaria and Bayern Württemberg). Before the maypole goes up, there is usually a procession through the town or village accompanied by a brass band — and afterward a Maitanz (May dance) with free-flowing beer and Bratwurst. Maifest celebrations are an important part of German community culture, and, while traditions may vary depending on the region, the festivals and fairs that take place during May are all accompanied by a good dose of mirth and merriment and the familiar aroma of grilled Bratwurst with all the trimmings. German immigrants brought the Maifest celebration to the United States in the 1800s. Towns such as a Hermann, MO, Strasburg, VA, Brenham, TX, Myrtle Beach, FL and Tulsa, OK continue the celebration of this popular tradition to this day.

Liebesmaien (Lover’s Maygift)

For some Germans, May provides another opportunity for couples to express their love for one another. One of the sweetest May traditions in Germany, most common in the Rhineland, is the custom of making and delivering so-called Liebesmaien. Here a young man will decorate a young birch sapling with crepe paper and hearts inscribed with the name of his sweetheart, or of a young lady he hopes will become one, and leave it outside her door. These exquisitely decorated trees traditionally remain in front of the house of the chosen young ladies until they are collected by the suitors on the first of June. If she is interested in him, it is customary for her to invite him to dinner. There is also a tradition where the young lady’s mother will reward him with a cake, the father with a crate of beer and the young lady herself with a kiss! And, once every 4 years, in a leap year, tradition allows the woman to pursue the man and the roles are reversed.

Wave-Goth-Festival Leipzig

Every May, Since 1992, Leipzig has hosted a worldwide festival for dark rock and arts. Thousands of black eyebrowed boys and girls in their teens and tweens, dressed in black or purple baroque-style clothes, dance to goth rock, or enjoy the magic of the ‘dark arts.’ A nightmare for some parents, here goth kids from around the world can hang with their peers and enjoy the unique art forms of that genre.

 

Mother’s Day

In 1912, American suffragette Anna Jarvis, grief-stricken by the death of her mother, thought it was time to give mothers what they deserve: a national holiday. She was so determined that she went to the US House of Representatives to lobby for a “Mother’s Day” and even hired an ad agency to get public support for her cause. Two years later, the second Sunday in May became known as Mother’ Day in some regions, and in 1914 President Woodrow Wilson signed the holiday into law. In 1923, Germans adopted the Muttertag (Mother’s Day) holiday, although not in a quite as cause-driven and ceremonial manner. In Germany, Muttertag started as a marketing campaign of the Verband Deutscher Blumengeschäftsinhaber (Association of German Flower Shop Owners).

German Father’s Day

The origins of Father’s Day in Germany can be traced back to the early 1930s, when the male parent was celebrated regionally for the first time in some areas of Germany. This tradition continued to develop and gained nationwide popularity in the 1950s. Modern Father’s Day in Germany is celebrated on Ascension Day, a nationwide Christian holiday that takes place 40 days after Easter. This day has therefore a dual culinary significance: celebrating the “Feast of the Ascension” and giving fathers the permission to socialize with other fathers … and party. The traditional Vatertag is hence often connected with hikes or excursions in nature, during which men traditionally carry handcarts with beer, Landjäger sausages, gherkins and savory snacks. It’s great opportunity for a families to come together, to strengthen inter-generational bonds between grandfathers, fathers and sons, and to attend concerts, carnivals, beergarden and Maifest celebrations that are organized in many cities and towns around the country.

Cinco de Mayo and Mayfest

The historically Mexican holiday, commemorating a military victory in the town of Pueblo against the French army in 1862, has gained popularity in Germany in recent decades, particularly in cities with vibrant international communities and a penchant for cultural diversity. German Cinco de Mayo & Mayfest parties provide opportunities to experiment with Latin-German fusion cooking, sample tacos, quesadillas and guacamole along with pretzels, pickles and potato salad, indulge in margaritas and tequila-enriched maybowles, and dance to mariachi and Latin rhythms.

Hosting so many gatherings and get-togethers in quick succession can be a challenge even for the most experienced host or hostess, as is finding the perfect gift. A German Maifest party may solve the hosting dilemma with a unique way to observe the May celebrations. Grill some genuine German Frankfurters, Wiener or Bockwurst from Meica, add some hot curry ketchup or spicy mustard and serve with a spätzle salad, crunchy Hengstenberg gherkins and genuine German Kartoffelpuffer (potato pancakes). You’ll find all these items and more on The Taste of Germany website. Browse now and treat your family and friends to a springtime party with a German twist.

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