The adventures of a little girl on May Day. My first attempt at a kid/young adult story.
Die Geschichte von Mai Tag
(The history of May Day)
A national holiday in German speaking countries, May Day is similar to Labor Day in the United States. Called Tag der Arbeit (Worker’s Day), German workers gather for rallies to express their unity. However, it is not only for workers, but May Day is a day filled with festivals all over Germany.
On the ancient calendar May was a joyous month because the Pagan fairies (rulers of May) would help Earth cloak herself once more in beautiful green. In the rural farming areas, Spring through the beginning of Autumn were filled with work except during midsummer celebrations. “Mairegen bringt Segan” (Literally translated to May Rain brings blessings) was a popular saying for May Day, the much-anticipated holiday where in some areas cattle were taken out to the pasture for the first time. This holiday also has many customs and symbols that are connected with it, but celebrated differently in each region of Germany.
A few of the symbols connected to May Day are Maiglöckchen (May Bells) that deck the Houses and dance halls, along with other young greens. Along with the picking of these beautiful plants are also the plantings of seedlings or young trees. The Maikäfer (Maybeetles) that children love to purchase at local stores are another symbol of May Day. One cannot forget about the Maypole, the major symbol of Spring’s reawakening. Set up in the market place, usually in front of city hall or other prominent spots in town, colourful carved shingles or signs may decorate the Maypole to indicate the town’s trades and professions. In Munich the Maypole is located on the Viktualienmarkt and stays up all year long.
May first is an especially important day for Bavarians because it is “Our Dear Lady as Patron Saint of Bavaria” day, and festivals take on a special Bavarian flavor. In the villages, for centuries it has been custom to cut a tall and straight tree before May first and place it in the center of the village decorated with a spring wreath. One tradition is to steal the Maypole of the neighboring village on the night before and hold it for ransom for usually a couple glasses of beer.
Maypole climbing contests are another Bavarian tradition. In many parts of the region, men battle to see who can climb up the polished tree trunks the fastest. However, this task is made harder because the Maypole is usually soaped down. Their goal is to win sausages and pretzels that hang atop the pole and to impress the girls in the crowd. Maiwein is a German drink that is dedicated to springtime and enjoyed by everyone to celebrate May Day.
“Katrina, wake up,” Mother said as she tapped Katrina out of her sleep. “Can’t I go back to sleep? It’s still dark outside,” she replied to Mother.
“It’s your favorite day, Katrina.” As Katrina’s mother said those words, Katrina’s eyes became wide with excitement. It was the first of May, May Day, and Katrina loved all the festivities that went with this day, especially helping Mother cook for the big party that happened later in the day. Katrina’s mother walked out of her bedroom and Katrina dressed quickly.
Katrina made her way into the kitchen. It was not part of tradition to go to church on May Day, but Mother was very religious and always went to church to commemorate the Dear Lady of Bavaria. Katrina, dressed in her embroidered blue dress, walked to the doormat to put on her shoes. Mother was outside waiting for her; Katrina quickly put the shoes that were waiting to be occupied on and ran outside to Mother. They then proceeded to church.
Church finished quickly; surprising for Katrina since church bored her. It was now time to start cooking the apple strudel that Mother always loved to bring to the festival. Katrina followed Mother to grab an apron on the back of the door. Katrina and Mother quickly tied the apron to protect their dresses and walked over to the counter to begin to cook.
Katrina sat down at the table. Her job was to stir the dough. She watched patiently as Mother put the ingredients in the bowl. Mother finally finished and handed the bowl to Katrina. She stirred quickly, and when she finished Mother took the dough, kneaded it and set aside under the bowl to rise.
Father finally walked in the door from setting up the May Day tree. “Come on, Katrina. We’re going into the city.” Katrina then became excited, she loved going into town to buy chocolate May beetles. She could live on those beloved bugs for days, though it often grated on her parents’ nerves when she became hyper.
“I wish it could stay May Day forever, Daddy. I just love this day,” Katrina said as Father kept his eyes on the road. “I know you do, Sweetie,” Father replied. “I can’t wait until the May Pole. I love dancing with the ribbons,” she was saying as she looked out the window at the beautiful scenery that included the Alps. The rest of the ride was filled with Katrina’s chitter-chatter, but it seemed to be only taken in by the sky and trees since Father did not pay attention and kept his eyes on the road.
Katrina and Father finally arrived at the general store. Once Father finally parked his Volkswagen, she jumped out and began to run to the store. “Katrina, wait up, please,” Father yelled to his daughter. Katrina waited and out of excitement she started to bounce a bit. Father picked up his pace and met Katrina. Father grabbed her hand and walked across the street.
The little bells attached to the door of the store jingled when Katrina and Father walked in. “Good morning, Mr. Schröder and Katrina. Happy May Day,” the store clerk said as they walked in the door. “Why thank you, Franz. Same to you,” Father replied. “Here for Katrina’s beloved chocolate beetles,” Franz asked Father. “Of course. Hyper the whole ride here,” Father replied and Franz just laughed. Katrina then came running to the front of the store with a box of chocolate beetles in hand. She then put the box on the counter, Father paid for it, said their goodbyes and Katrina and Father went back home.
The house smelled of apples and flowers when Katrina and Father arrived home. On the counter sat Mother’s famous apple strudel and next to it sat two bowls of Apfelwein, one for the adults and the other for children. Katrina also felt proud since she helped Mother with the apple strudel and Katrina could not wait to hear everyone say how good the strudel was and it might be the best in town. “Katrina,” Mother called breaking her day dream, “it’s time to go, sweetie.” With those words they walked out the door and proceeded to the May Day celebrations.
Women gathered in the party hall which hustled and bustled with several cooking the many treats needed for later. Others set up tales while some put the drinks out. Even the young girls were busy; their job was decorating the room with streamers and putting the May Bells that were just picked on tables.
“Look outside! The boys are about to begin their contest,” one of the woman called out. Everyone dropped what they were doing and ran outside. Once outside the contest of climbing to the top of the Maypole began. It took about ten minutes to get a clear winner, but Johan finally won when he grabbed the sausages and pretzels. Once all the boys climbed down, Johan, with his prized sausages and pretzels, was awarded a medal and everyone clapped.
It was now time for the girls to dance around the Maypole. Eight girls grabbed a pink ribbon and stood out a few feet from the pole. The girls wore a crown of May Bells, and proceeded to dance in the direction they were facing. Weaving in and out in a clockwise, then counterclockwise motion, the girls began to braid the ribbons around and over the pole. What a funny sight it was to watch the girls squat like a duck or forget to do so and walk into the ribbon. About fifteen minutes later they were done, and girls and spectators alike were hungry.
The crowd gathered inside the party hall to eat. Each of the long tables, as in every German festival, were filled and it did not matter if the people knew each other; they talked and shared a drink or two together. The women served the food and drinks; everyone was full by the time dessert was about to be served. But, of course no one could refuse apple strudel and the strudel was gone in seconds. Everyone raved and Katrina felt proud.
It was time to go home. Katrina did not want to go; she wished today would never end. Katrina then yawned and without a fight her Father picked her up.
She was asleep by the time the Schröders arrived home. They tucked Katrina into bed and everyone slept well that night.
May Day Recipes
Maibowle (May punch)
Place in a bowl:
12 sprigs young waldmeister
1 ¼ cup powdered sugar
1 bottle of white grape juice
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 white grape juice
1-quart carbonated water
Thinly sliced oranges, sticks of pineapple and sprigs of waldmeister may be used to decorate the “Maitrank.”
1 pound sweet apples -- peeled, cored and thinly sliced
¼ cup golden raisins
¼ cup dried currants
½ -teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons white sugar
2 slices brown bread, crumbled
½ (16 ounce) package phyllo dough
¼ -cup butter, melted
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). In a bowl, combine apples, raisins, currants, cinnamon, sugar and bread crumbs. Stir well. Spread several sheets of pastry generously with melted butter and lay them on atop the other on a baking sheet. Spread the fruit mixture evenly over the top sheet, and then roll the sheets up to form a log shape. Brush with melted butter again. Bake in preheated oven 30 minutes, until pastry is golden brown and fruit is tender.
AN DEN MAI, melody W. A. Mozart
1. Komm lieber Mai und mache
Die Bäume wieder grün
Und lass uns an dem Bache
Die kleinen Veilchen blühn.
Wie möchten wir so gerne
Ein Blümchen wieder sehn!
Ach lieber Mai wie gerne
Einmal spazieren gehn.
2. Zwar Wintertage haben
Wohl auch der Freuden viel;
Man kann im Schnee eins traben
Und treibt manch Abendspiel,
Baut Häuserchen von Karten;
Spielt Blinde-Kuh und Pfand;
Auch gibt's wohl Schlittenfahrten
Auf's liebe freie Land.
3. Doch wenn die Vöglein singen
Und wir dann froh und flink
Auf grünem Rasen springen,
Das ist ein ander Ding!
Drum komm und bring vor allem
Uns viele Rosen mit,
Bring auch viel Nachtigallen
Und schöne Kuckucks mit!
C. A. Overbeck
From the Engelbert Humperdinck Edition of SANG UND KLANG FÜRS KINDERHERZ; Berlin: Neufeld & Henius (1911)