In Bavaria May 1 is an especially important day for it is “Unsere Liebe Frau als Schutzfrau Bayerns” (Our Dear Lady as Patron Saint of Bavaria) also called the “Fest Patrona Bavariae”. Festivals there have a special Bavarian flavor.
In Bavarian villages, it has been the custom for centuries to cut a tall and straight tree, a day or two before May 1, place it in the middle of the village and decorate it with a wreath of spring flowers and colorful ribbons. One of the traditions is to attempt to steal the Maypole of the neighboring village on the night before, and to hold it for ransom, usually a couple kegs of beer. At the same time villagers had to make sure that their neighbors did not steal their maypole.
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 have a good shot if they smear ashes, tree sap or pitch on their hands. The goal is to win the Brezeln und Würste (pretzels and sausages) that hang atop 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 trees are about 45 feet high, without branches or bark, and slick as a grease pan!
Maiwein (May Wine) is a German drink, dedicated to springtime and flavored with fresh Waldmeister (sweet woodruff). Maiwein, a white wine, imported from Germany, can be found in stores. Waldmeister is an old-world herb, a small plant with white blossoms. In Germany it grows in the forests. However, the variety that grows wild here is not usable for flavoring. This decorative plant may be grown in a shady corner of an herb garden. It should be used for flavoring only in May when the new leaves are tender. Cut up and soaked in the wine it will produce the distinctive May Wine taste.
You can make your own Maiwein by using a good white wine and flavoring it with woodruff. For a Maibowle (May punch) you can add carbonated water or champagne. The following recipe is from “Joy of Cooking” by Rombauer and Becker
Place in a bowl:
12 sprigs young waldmeister
1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 bottle Moselle or other dry white wine
(1 cup brandy)
Cover the mixture for 30 minutes, no longer. Remove the waldmeister. Stir contents of bowl thoroughly and pour over a block of ice in a punch bowl. Add:
3 bottles Moselle
1 quart carbonated water or champagne
Thinly sliced oranges, sticks of pineapple and, most appropriately, sprigs of waldmeister, may be used to decorate the “Maitrank.”
I dropped in rank! I’m now no longer in the top 20 LJs. (I am in the top 21)