May Pole at Viktualienmarkt -- munichFOTO
May Pole at Viktualienmarkt -- munichFOTO

MUNICH — (MunichNOW News) — 1st May is Maypole (Maibaum) Day in Bavaria and a day for the local folklore group dressed in their finest costumes to gather all the villagers together to celebrate this important annual occasion. Each and every maypole is uniquely decorated with ribbons, wreaths or signs denoting local craftsmen’s guilds.

Soon it is time for the brass band to tune up and accompany the dancers well into the night. A traditional dark Maibock beer is brewed especially for the occasion.

Traditional hoisting of the Maibaum – dpa/photo alliance

Hoisting The Pole

The hoisting of a maypole is an important part of all spring festivities. Most Bavarian villages have a club known as the “Burschenverein” that is akin to Young Farmer’s associations. Long before the 1st May the young men of the Burschenverein go out to the woods to choose a tall straight pine tree that is then felled and hidden away for safekeeping.

The earliest reports of Maypoles, as a symbol of all things that grow and bear fruit, date back to the 13th century. Today the Maypole reflects the wealth of the particular community.

MunichNOW Maibaumfest Haar 2018
MunichNOW Maibaumfest Haar 2018

Stealing The Pole

Part of this whole tradition is that one village tries to steal the maypole from the neighbours. If they succeed the safe return of the maypole is up for negotiation with ransoms involving copious quantities of beer and food.

Some “Burschenvereine” have specialised in stealing the maypoles that are most closely watched by the strongest security. Maypole stealing is governed by a pretty strict code of conduct: sawing or damaging the maypole in any way is absolutely frowned upon as is a non-payment of the ransom.

The most spectacular theft occurred back in 2004 when cunning thieves stole the maypole from the top of the Zugspitze using a helicopter. Once the 20 m long maypole had been safely flown to an Alpine hut negotiations began to determine how much ransom would be paid for its return. Rumour has it that the there were copious quantities of food and the beer flowed freely all night.

MunichNOW Maibaumfest Haar 2018
MunichNOW Maibaumfest Haar 2018
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Hoisting the maypole is a really tough job that makes most men break out in a sweat. It is raised using smaller trees that have been stripped of the bark and slung together at the top by thick rope together with a whole lot of muscle power. Centimetre by centimetre the maypole is slowly hoisted into a pre-prepared hole.

Fixing The Wreath

Once firmly anchored in place it is decorated with signs indicating local craftsmen’s guilds and topped with a wreath from which sausages, bacon, wine and schnapps bottles are hung.

Fixing the wreath in place is the job of the “Maibaumkraxler” who has to scale the maypole, attach the wreath and make it safely back down to the ground again. When all the work is done its time to celebrate with Bavarian brass band music and dancing long into the night.

Another Bavarian tradition is the Maibaumkraxeln (Maypole climbing) contest. In many parts of Bavaria guys battle to see who can climb up the shaven and polished tree trunk the fastest, a task made even tougher by soaping down the Maypole, so that climbers only succeed if they smear ashes, tree sap or pitch on their hands.


The goal is to win the Brezeln und Wuerste (pretzels and sausages) that hang on top of the pole, and to impress the girls down in the crowd. Beginners climb carefully, gradually and in spurts. Veterans will grab a hold of the tree between hands and feet and climb right up. These are trees, 15 m (46 ft.) high, without branches, no bark, and slick as a grease pan!

MunichNOW Maibaumfest Haar 2018
MunichNOW Maibaumfest Haar 2018

May Day Festivals

Maibaumaufstellen in Allach – 1.5.2019, ab 11 Uhr
Maifeier in Hellabrunn – 1.5.2019, ab 11 Uhr
Maibaum in Neuhausen (Kirche St. Clemens) – 1.5.2019, ab 14 Uhr

Weitere Maifeste:
Maifest am Luise-Kiesselbach-Platz – 1.5.2019 ab 10 Uhr
Rosa Stangerl – Maibaumfest im Glockenbachviertel – 1.5.2019, ab 11 Uhr (oder je nach Wetter 3.5.)
maiTum an der Technischen Universität München – 2./3.5.2019, je ab 11 Uhr
Harlachinger Maifest – 30.4. bis 5.5.2019
Maifest auf dem Laimer Anger – 1.5.2019, ab 11 Uhr
Maifest am Pfanzeltplatz – 1.5.2019, ab 10 Uhr