Tyrolean springtime customs

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Tyrolean springtime customs

Springtime is also the season for all kinds of traditions and celebrations, the Maypole being a popular custom in the Tyrol.

Origins and significance

The Maypole signifies far more than a decorated tree trunk, there is much history behind it.  In ancient times, celebrations around the Maypole symbolised the transition from the winter to summer; it was an expression of joy, pleasure and freedom. Later the Maypole became predominantly a token of gratitude, when this tree of honour was dedicated to important people of the community.

Custom and significance

Maypole customs differ between each region, with variations from Liebesmaien (May trees as love tokens) to Maypole climbing to Maypole stealing.

In the Tyrol, Maypole celebrations are accompanied by all manner of delicious, traditional Tyrolean specialities, washed down with suitably aromatic Maibock lager. The highpoint of the festival is Maypole climbing, when men show off their strength by trying to shin up the Maypole as far as the first wreath.

In other regions, young men are inspired to plant a Liebesmaien, usually a small birch tree, as a token of love and devotion outside the house of their loved one on the eve of Mayday. This tree is beautifully decorated, similarly to the Maypole in the village square, and also bears a heart with the name of his sweetheart.

Another popular custom linked to this romantic gesture is Maypole stealing. The young man’s task is not just to decorate the tree, transport and put it up, but also to guard it through the night. This is an important part of the custom, because other young men are lurking in the dark, waiting to steal the tree or even destroy it.

One thing is certain, springtime is blooming everywhere in all kinds of ways and there’s always a celebration to enjoy.

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