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cultural difference 28: May tree

May 29, 2010

No, this isn’t a clever German invention to make sure the cat doesn’t sharpen her claws on the poor Christmas tree 🙂

What you see here is a May tree.

Putting up a May tree in the village square on May 1 is an old tradition in Germany and some other European countries, apparently reaching back to the 16th century. It’s a celebration of spring.

Traditions differ slightly from region to region. Sometimes the May tree is a pole with a garland on top; sometimes it’s a fir that’s partially stripped or put on top of the pole.

Sometimes, there’s a rivalry between villages who try to steal each other’s May trees and only give it back after a “ransom” (mostly beer) is paid.

In some villages, young men also put a smaller May tree in front of their (potential) girlfriends’ houses. If the young woman removes the tree before May is over, it’s a rejection.

And I just found out that Munich has a gay May tree. 🙂

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