May Pole festival in Austria

A May pole is a tree or actually a trunk of a tree, decorated. It is generally set on the 1st of May in different parts of Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic. In most regions of central Europe, especially in Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria and Austria, a big celebration for the setting of the May pole in the village square is very common. Just before placing the pole a kind of procession through the village takes place, the goal is to reach the main square with as most spectators as possible and accompanied by the town´s musical band. There, the lifting of the pole takes place in the afternoon or evening. The villagers gather together and there is live music  and dances to liven up the ceremony and to encourage and cheer the young men who will raise the pole. It is a traditional party with beer and sausages, where all children and adults come together and enjoy.

The origin of the May pole dates back to antiquity and cannot be explained clearly what its exact beginning was. It is well known that the Vikings in the past used to raise the "Thor´s pole“ on the first night of May. This was a wooden stick, decorated with colorful flowers, whose meaning was strength and growth. However, where in the past the May pole symbolized strength and fertility, today it is merely a competition between towns. Numerous villages compete every year for the largest and pretties May pole of all. The biggest trunk with 57 meters even achieved an entry in the Guinness Book of Records.

In some villages in Austria and Germany, new traditions have settled. There is now a tradition in the villages where young, single men put a small May pole outside the house of the girl they like, decorated with a red wooden heart with the names of the couple-to-be written in the middle and colored crepe paper around. The pole stays there for a month. Then, on the first of June, the young man returns to pick it up. When the girl has also a crush on him, the next step is an invitation for dinner. He is also rewarded by the girl's father with a box of beer, a cake baked by the girl's mother, and a kiss from the girl. The beginning of a new couple!!!

The robbery of the May pole in one of the new and fun traditions, in which villagers compete to steal the pole from each other in the night of the setting and take it to their village as a trophy. To avoid that, a young men's committee is elected to care and watch over the pole all night long, while enjoying a box full of beers. The young people of the neighboring villages do everything possible to distract them and steal the pole.

And so with this tradition officially begins the warm season in Austria, a season full of parties, barbecues and street festivals. Can´t wait!!!

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