Maifest celebrates the end of the long dark winter, and the beginning of warm weather and light. It’s a time of reawakening and joy! Best of all… it’s a fun reason to have a party, now that Karnival is behind us, and Oktoberfest is still a few months away. But what is Maifest? And how is it celebrated?
Quick Look at the Contents
What is Maifest??
Maifest (Mayday) May 1st, is the official celebration that marks the arrival of spring. It’s roots are in the Pagan celebration of Walpurgisnacht (April 30), tossing off the darkness and cold of Winter, although now, it’s mostly a secular celebration. People of the cities and villages will decorate with ribbons and flowers. (In the Rhineland, it was custom for a young man to tie colorful ribbons in the garden of a girl he fancied…. during leap years, girls would do the ribbon tying). Most towns will erect a Maibaum (May Pole). There are bonfires to chase the darkness, and dances to celebrate. As with every German celebration, there are foods and special drinks like Maibock (strong spring beer) and Maibowle ( a wine punch with Waldmeister).
What is a Maibaum?
Around the 10th Century, the custom of the Maibaum/Maypole began. The young men from the village would go into the woods and find a tall tree that they stripped of branches, and hauled back to town to decorate. Craftsmen carved shields or symbols depicting the various town guilds, or clubs that would be attached to crossbeams/branches on the Maibaum. A wreath is added to the top, and long ribbons tied to it. The Maibaum would be guarded very carefully, since young men from other villages would try to “steal” it and hold the Maypole for ransom (usually, they could be paid off with beer or a nice lunch in a Gasthaus).
On the first day of May, the Maibaum is erected in the center of the town square or marketplace. In some places, the local Schutzenverein will wake everyone up with cannon or gun fire! Once the Maibaum is secure, there is dancing, singing and games.
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 addition to the Maypole, there is dancing, eating and lots of drinking! Some towns burn bonfires. And special beverages like Maibock beer brewed especially for this celebration and Maibowle (a champagne punch) are served.
In 1934 Maifest became a German National Holiday. Towns still celebrate the old traditions, but now May Day has taken on a new meaning. It’s become a celebration of International Worker’s day, so Unions and Political groups will hold events on May 1 as well.
Maifest In America
Today, like many other traditions, Maifest came to America with German immigrants (it’s been celebrated in Ohio since 1873). Trachtverein keep the tradition of building and decorating a Maypole… and they still dance. Take a look around at any large German Fest, you may see a Maibaum… and maybe you can identify the different symbols attached to it.
Maifest is a wonderful time to come together and celebrate the end of winter… and rejoice your way into spring!
Click on your City/State in the Table of Contents to go right to the Maifest closest to you…
Maifest Celebrations in America (and Canada) 2017
Note– This is not a complete list… if you have any Maifest Celebrations you wish to add, please list them in the comments, or send me an email at GermangirlinAmerica@gmail.com
May 1 at the Phoenix Club- 1340 S Sanderson Ave., Anaheim, CA
Kids under 16 are free!
1st Sunday in May- Oakland Nature Friends Tourist Club 3115 Butters Drive, Oakland, CA 94602
For more information- http://thenaturefriendscorporation.org/festivals.html
San Francisco (Mill Valley)
Tourist Club San Francisco Maifest
May 21, 2017 – San Francisco Tourist Club, Mill Valley, Marin County, California
For more Information- http://touristclubsf.org/festivals/
For more information- http://www.americangermanclub.org/calendar.html
June 1 – 4th – Lincoln and Leland Ave.
for more information— http://www.mayfestchicago.com/schedule.html
Maifest Celebration Hofbrauhaus Chicago
Hofbrauhaus Chicago 5500 Park Place, Rosemont, IL 60018
In the past this wass a month long celebration with lots of special events!
May 20 2017 German American Heritage Center 25249 S. Center Road – Frankfort, IL.
for more information- 815)464-1514
Galena Brewing Company Maifest
May 14th at Galena Brewing Company 227 North Main Street, Galena, IL 61036
Every Beer helps a Pet
for more information-
May 6-7, 2017
HUGE celebration with LOADS to do for the whole family
for more information- http://www.festivalsinamana.com/maifest.html
April 30th, 2016
Greet the Spring German Style!
For more information- http://www.gahc.org/Maifest.htm
Mainstrasse Village Maifest
May 19th, 21st, 2017 Mainstrasse Village, Covington, KY
For more information- http://festivalnet.com/12277/Covington-Kentucky/Festivals/Mainstrasse-Village-Maifest
Maifest at Excelsior Brewing Company
May 19th – 20th 2017 – Excelsior Brewing Company 421 3rd Street, Excelsior, MN 55331
For More information-http://excelsiorbrew.com/maifest/
May 6th at Morgan Creek Vinyards
For more information- http://www.newulm.com/visitors-community/things-to-do/festivals/mai-fest/
May 20- 22nd, 2016
this one looks HUGE with bands and parades
for more information- http://visithermann.com/event/maifest-3/
TBD 3717 South 120th Street Omaha, NE 68144
for more information http://www.germanamericansociety.org/events/maifest/
May 19th – 21st, 2017 Germania Festival Grounds 51 Old Degarmo Rd. Poughkeepsie NY 12603
for more information- http://www.germaniapok.com/Events.html
May 5-7, 2017 Annual German American Society Germanfest
For more information-http://www.gastulsa.org/
May 18th- 21st, 2017 Tulsa International Mayfest is an annual tribute to
art and music in the heart of beautiful downtown Tulsa!
For More Information- http://tulsamayfest.org/
May 19- 21st, 2017
the most authentic in Cincinnati!
for more information http://germaniasociety.com/maifest/
Zauber Brewing Company Maifest
May 7th, 2016 In the street 909 W. Fifth Avenue, Columbus
Music, food and dancing
For more information-
For more information
For mor information- http://www.brauhausschmitz.com/events/
May 13th, 2017 Saengerrunde Hall 1607 San Jacinto Austin, TX
German beer tasting, live music and bowling.
For more information- http://www.saengerrunde.org/
May 5th -6th at Fireman’s Park
this looks like a huge celebration!
For more information- http://www.maifest.org/
May 13th – 15th 800 Front Street, Leavenworth, WA,98826
this is a free event!
For more information- http://leavenworth.org/event/maifest-2017/2017-05-13/
May 19- 21st 2017 Deutschland Heritage Foundation
For more information- http://maifestgermantown.com/schedule/
Mayfest at the Bavarian Beerhaus
Weekend 1 May 12-13, Weekend 2 May 19-20
Mayfest is one of the world’s oldest traditions, the celebration of nature’s bright reawakening after winter’s cold darkness. The Bavarian Bierhaus is hosting our first annual Mayfest at Heidelberg Park during the second and third weekends of May. Celebrate the arrival of spring with live bands, plenty of food and beer, pig roasts, carnival rides, and more!
For more information- https://www.eventbrite.com/e/mayfest-table-sales-saturday-may-20-tickets-31333604655
May 28th, 2017 with a Parade and Art Fair
Maifest includes a juried art fair; midway activities for children; concession stands selling funnel cakes, kolaches, brats and hot dogs; live music; helicopter rides; and a car show
May 6, 2016 The Schwabenhof NW56 w 14750 Silver Spring Rd. Monomonee.
For More information- http://www.udommilwaukee.com/
TBD 2015 Estabrook Park 4600 Estabrook Dr. Milwaukee
This one is HUGE
For More information- http://www.estabrookbeergarden.com/milwaukee-maifest/
May 4,5, & 6th, 2016 Heimat Windsor Banquet Centre 519 915-9821
For more information- http://heimatwindsor.wixsite.com/home/maifest
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