Dr. Goodword’s Language Blog

May Day in Germany

In response to our Good Word May Day, Monika Freund sent me her remembrances of another European May Day custom that persisted to the late 50s:

On April 30 all the bachelors of a village came together in the local pub and auctioned all the girls off: the one who made the highest bid (later redeemed in beer) was allowed to set a May tree,  meaning, a young man who wanted to date a girl would decorate a young birch tree with ribbons and put it into the front garden of her parents’ home.

He was then allowed to come for Sunday Kaffeetafel all May. The girl who got the highest bid of all became “May Queen” and the highest bidder was “May King”. If a boy from a neighboring village wanted to set a tree, he had to buy himself a place at the pub event at the rate of four crates of beer.

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