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Bits of Bavaria: Erster Mai

In the spirit of May Day here is my blog entry from exactly a year ago, when I spent May 1st in a small village in deepest southern Germany.

Erster Mai is a big deal in Bavaria. There’s no school, no work, and copious amounts of lederhosen, beer and brass bands - but the main attraction of the day for every town centres around a selection of strapping young men straining themselves red in the face for a few hours erecting a gigantic phallic piece of wood. What could be more German?

The Mai Baum Aufstellung follows a highly regulated timetable (of course), involving all sorts of traditional theatrics and staged trials that must be overcome. Mehring and the nearby village of Raitenhaslach alternate annually as to whose village green is going to be graced with the May Tree, but every year the men of the tree-less village “steal” it the evening before (along with the five hundred litres of beer). It is then dramatically re-seized by its rightful owners, and as “punishment” the guilty men are forced to help erect it alongside their rivals. No modern machinery is allowed in this endeavour, but what really drags the whole process out is that every metre it is raised all the men stop and shout that beer and hearty victuals are needed to replenish their strength or they will BURN THE TREE TO THE GROUND. Everyone finds this make-believe hilarious because German humour is awful. Litre mugs of ale and enormous sausages are produced and passed around until everyone has decided they’re up to the task again, and then back to cries of manly exertion soundtracked by cheery Deutsch brass music. By the end of the proceedings most of the village could not walk in a straight line.

Marcus jokingly said to me “I bet you didn’t expect this when you moved to Bavaria!”. I rather think that this scene was EXACTLY what I expected when I moved to Bavaria.