Blauer Himmel und Maibaum

Discover Bavarian traditions by train: The Maypole

Every year on 1 May, very special trees grow tall in Bavaria - the May trees. We show you in which cities and towns you can experience this impressive ceremony up close on a day trip by train.


Bavaria - the land of beer gardens, pretzels and mountains. But did you also know that Bavarians have a special relationship with trees? On 1 May, or sometimes even as early as 30 April, a beautifully decorated tree trunk is raised in a prominent place in the community. The raising of the maypole is held in high esteem, especially in Bavaria, Baden-W├╝rttemberg and Austria. The maypole itself is a proud, delimbed and debarked tree trunk, usually decorated with a top left green and a wreath, and especially in Bavaria it is often painted in the national colours of blue and white. This magnificent piece is often handcrafted and decorated with all kinds of symbols and signs that are typical of the respective region or municipality. These include, for example, coats of arms, figures and guild signs that represent the craft or the history of the community.

The maypole: a symbol of spring and life

The raising of the maypole is more than just a simple custom - it is a festival that goes hand in hand with culinary delights, breathtaking attractions and endless celebrations. There is feasting, drinking and boisterous partying. Some communities even have shooting galleries, carousels and rides for children. Maypole raising is a wonderful opportunity to experience Bavarian tradition at first hand and meet other people to celebrate life together.

The tradition of raising the maypole dates back to pagan times, when the tree symbolized the power of spring and the return of life. Other theories claim it is a kind of status symbol to show which community has the biggest. And still others say it's simply an excuse to have a good party. In any case, the raising of the maypole is a social event organized by numerous Bavarian associations and communities. How long the maypole stays depends on the community. Some places put it up every year, while other communities replace the tree every two to five years. However, safety first: After five years at the latest, the maypole is taken down for safety reasons and replaced by a new one.

Maypole vigil: a youth tradition

The maypole has a special significance for young people in the region. In many places, it is a tradition for the young members of the local fire brigade or the shooting club to guard the maypole. They spend the night in tents or under the stars and keep a watchful eye to make sure the tree is not stolen by neighbouring communities. Because whoever manages to steal the maypole has the right to demand a ransom from the guards - an exciting game between the communities.

The raising of the maypole is a beautiful tradition that everyone should have experienced once. It's a festival for the whole family, celebrating the awakening of spring and spending time together. And when the tree is finally up, it is a moment full of pride and togetherness.

Maypole with Alpine panorama in Garmisch-Partenkirchen and Mittenwald

Nestled in a breathtaking mountain backdrop, the picturesque town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen is best known for its world-famous ski resorts, the Zugspitzbahn railway and its charming, traditional Bavarian houses. In early May, the maypole is also traditionally erected in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, with the local Garmisch fire brigade taking on this task in front of the "Zur Schranne" inn. While in other communities the erection of the tree relies solely on pure muscle power, here heavy technical equipment is used. This is done to ensure the safety of the visitors and to protect the surrounding buildings from damage. The maypole is raised to an upright position with the help of a crane. The erection is accompanied by live music and a children's programme with a bouncy castle.

In the neighbouring village of Mittenwald, an impressive maypole is also erected, showcasing local tradition and craftsmanship in an impressive way. The majestic tree is crowned by a magnificent weathercock and an artfully crafted wreath. On the sides of the tree are eight carefully crafted guild signs, representing the diversity and creativity of the community. In addition to a raftsman and a violin maker, a pair of meadow mowing people are also represented on the panels.

The Munich Maypole at the Viktualienmarkt - A Symbol of the City and its Culture

The Munich Maypole is undoubtedly one of the characteristic features of the Viktualienmarkt and has enjoyed the generous support of the six renowned breweries of the Bavarian capital for 55 years now. Today, it not only functions as a popular meeting place and sought-after photo motif, but is also considered one of the most significant landmarks of Munich and the Viktualienmarkt. There are six different groups of figures on the Maypole, which represent the "Munich way of life" known worldwide and thus have an important cultural value for the city. If you would like to find out more about the motifs depicted, you can do so here. Munich's maypole is not replaced every year; the last time this happened was in 2022, when a nearly 100-year-old spruce from Valley, a small community in the south-east of Munich, was felled and made into an imposing maypole almost 35 metres high. 

Not only at the Viktualienmarkt in the heart of Munich, but also in the surrounding districts and communities, May is duly celebrated with the erection of majestic maypoles! But watch out: This traditional fun does not take place every year. That's why it's important to find out in advance which municipalities are inviting you to this year's cheerful May Day celebrations.

Frauenkirche in M├╝nchen vor blauem Himmel

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Historical costumes and traditional dances: Bad W├Ârishofen celebrates May Day

In the tranquil spa town of Bad W├Ârishofen, where guests normally enjoy the soothing thermal springs and enchanting nature, this year the maypole will already be erected on 23 April with a festive ceremony on the fairground in front of the Guggerhaus. This grandiose spectacle is organized by the proud Heimat- und Volkstrachtenverein. But that is by no means all, because there is also another celebration in Bad W├Ârishofen on 1 May. On this day, the traditional Kneipp town May festival takes place, where the festive programme begins at 2 p.m. with a procession of traditional costumes from the Kurhaus to the festival site at the maypole in front of the house "Zum Gugger". This is followed by a varied festive programme by the Trachtenverein, including the famous ribbon dances under the maypole and old Swabian dances in historical costumes. The famous Bad W├Ârishofen town band provides the appropriate musical accompaniment during the afternoon in its tried and tested way.

Bei einem Tagesausflug durch den bekannten Kurort Bad W├Ârishofen begibt man sich auf die Spuren der Naturheillehre von Sebastian Kneipp. Wir...

Maypole, music and more: A day full of tradition in Ochsenfurt 

On Sunday, 30 April 2023, the picturesque old town of Ochsenfurt will once again celebrate the traditional raising of the maypole. The charming small town in Lower Franconia is best known for its enchanting Christmas market, which winds its way through the narrow streets of the old town. Accompanied by lively brass band music, the Ochsenfurt folk costume society, the town council and craftsmen in original professional dress, the imposing maypole is led to the market square. Here the stately tree is erected with the support of the Ochsenfurt Volunteer Fire Brigade and the building yard. In contrast to most regions of Bavaria, where peeled spruces or firs serve as the festive tree, a birch tree with an intact green top is traditionally used in Ochsenfurt. However, the guild signs are also part of the tradition for this tree.

Klingentor , Foto: AHA Design

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