Maiele – I think this is my favorite tradition of all we have here in Germany. Why? Well, let me tell you.

First of all, some of you might wonder about the pronounciation. That’s an easy one: Just put  “May” and the first syllable of “Elena” (which would be “ele”) together. Sounds strange? Actually it’s a diminuition of May in German.

It’s called like that, because this is a custom of May 1st. Here in Germany May 1st is a holiday, also called “Labor Day”, because it was originally started by the labor movement in the late 1880s.

However the tradition of Maiele doesn’t have anything to do with Labor Day. Maiele is more like Valentine’s Day. On the night from April 30th to May 1st the boy/man who is in love with a girl (they don’t have to be in a relationship, but on most occasions they are) puts up a birch tree decorated with a big heart that bears the name of the girl and colored cloth stripes.

This is a very old tradition here in the area where I live and in the past it was custom that when a girl got two (or three in some areas) birches in 2 (3 in some areas) consecutive years by the same guy the last tree ment that they were getting engaged. This, however, is not as strictly seen any longer.

But there are some other things that are still practised. E.g. given the possibility that there are more guys who want to put up a birch for one girl one may top off a birch that has already been installed, but isn’t guarded. If it is guarded, the people looking after the birch may “release” the group by donating a crate of beer. However, trees may only be chopped off until the “morning ringing” of the church bells which is around six in the morning.

So, nowadays, there will be groups of young men who drive around in the night, looking for birches that have been put up. Of course, they’re more on the lookout for the beer than chopping off the trees.

To make the wait for morning  a bit more bearable the girl’s parents usually host a big breakfast for the guy who put up the tree (and his friends, because you need a lot of guys to put up such a tree).

I got a Maiele three years ago from my boyfriend. This was a total surprise, because we had talked about it before and I’d said that I didn’t want him to put up one, because he’d have to transport the tree all the way from where he’s living. Just imagine driving 30 miles with a 10m high tree on a trailer…

But, as he does so often, he didn’t listen to me, but surprised me with the most beautiful tree ever:


4 thoughts on “Maiele

  1. This looks so beautiful 🙂

    – and like a lot of work… a real feat 🙂 and I didn’t even know about the chopping-down part

    I always thought it was only with the huge “Maibäume” 🙂 that groups from other villages try to steal them

  2. Ah, so cool… we have (somewhat) the same tradition in the Rhineland (minus the breakfast in the morning) and I still remember the fun times of guessing who put up the trees 🙂

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