History of Maifest

by Erika Neumayer Ehrat, designer and founder of Rare Dirndl

I have been celebrating Maifest here in Chicago for years and years! It is held in Lincoln Square, usually around the end of May/beginning of June. It is not an extravagant fest for the city, but in towns throughout Germany it is a wonderful spring festival not to be missed. Traditional garb is worn by the residents and festival goers, parades take place including horses and decorated wagons and traditional dances are performed. At first it was celebrated as Maypole Day, and the Maypole dance is also a main attraction for locals and guests.

In Bavaria, the Maypole is decorated in blue and white colors representing the Bavarian flag. Maifest is celebrated with the same zeal and zest as Oktoberfest. Maifest is a festival to welcome spring and warm weather. The sun shines and the apple trees blossom and brings smiles and happiness to the people. The delicious and dark beer is specially prepared for the occasion called “Maibock”.

Maifest is now celebrated in countries beyond Germany, like the US, Canada and Austria, little is known of its origin. Some sources say that the festival is as old as 6th century BC. It is believed that the first day of the month of May separated the year in two halves, the other half ended on the first of November. According to another source, it was Romans who are the real initiators of the Maifest. May was very close to the heart of the holy Romans, as they worshipped the goddess of flowers in May. The celebrations would start from April 28th to the second of May. Since the Maypole is decorated with flowers, it might be safe to assume that it was a roman tradition, which transformed overtime into a Bavarian tradition.

According to my friend Karen from germangirlinamerica.com, “around the 10th Century, the custom of the Maypole began. In many villages around Germany, townspeople would erect a Maypole (Maibaum) in the center of the town square or marketplace. It would be decorated with shields depicting the various town guilds, and long ribbons tied to it. The dance around the Maypole symbolized spring, and the awakening of the earth. In smaller towns, the entire village might be involved in singing and dancing!”

In Bavaria, there are countless events organized in different towns to celebrate Maifest. There is a huge permanent Maypole standing in Munich that I have visited and seen with my own eyes. With that I am proud to say that I can’t wait to celebrate Maifest again this year, like I do every year here in Chicago.

If you want to add a little bit of Bavairan flare to your outfit for Maifest (first weekend in June) Click here to grab my Bavarian Flag Inspired Chiffon Scarf.

Looking for a local Maifest? Search “Maifest” on germangirlinamerica.com to find a great list of different Maifests in the US and Canada.

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