Monday, May 01, 2006

May Day, May Day

If you want to get real technical about this, last night at midnight (the night directly opposite Halloween) is when Spring arrived for Germany and why today there is a holiday.

On the Market Square in Goslar, Germany

We first learned about this back in January when we were in Goslar, the delightful small town in the Hartz Mountains of northern Germany, near Hannover. Everywhere we went we saw the witches and wondered what in Sam's scratch that was all about.

Well, now we know. The Brocken is the highest peak of the Hartz Mts. (at 1142 meters) and can actually be seen from Goslar. Last night, on Walpurgisnacht (Walpurgis Night), if legend holds, the hexen (witches) met around their bonfires and whooped it up for their last fling before Spring. Even Goethe wrote about this in his Faust.

Under Christian influence, Walpurgis Night became a feast to ward off evil spirits. "Bells may toll in some areas and prayers may be said; there may be blessings with holy-water and blessed sprigs can be found in homes and barns."

But supposedly the best way to ward off the evil spirits during Walpurgis Night is NOISE. "As soon as the sun sets, boys of all ages may make noise. Their equipment ranges from boards to beat onto the ground to pistols for firing shots."

Christina, whose oldest son camped there this past February, wrote a bit about this witches' haven. So now I wonder if her two boys whooped it up last night, banging pots and pans and whatever else they could get their hands on. And what about the girls! Didn't Christina get to bang her own drums?

May Day, indeed. All I can think of is, ALREADY?!?! Oh yes, and if the witches protect the Eiscafes (ice cream shops), thank God for the witches!


  1. That sounds like a fun holiday. I always liked the idea of Halloween and that is similar...we don't really celebrate either over here. Halloween a bit because it is a good theme for a dance I suppose :) No children in costumes knocking on doors though.

    "The wolf is the incarnation of evil, ..." from the Faust link...they are so wrong!!!

  2. Hey, I was gonna use that post title! :-) I'm SO glad you posted this because I've been much too lazy.

    And no, this is one holiday we don't celebrate - it doesn't seem to be very common around here. A lot of people do go to parties and dances to welcome in May 1, but I didn't hear any drum banging goind on. :-)

  3. May 1 is also the start of Beltane, continuing the "witch" theme (read druid, Celt, etc.).

  4. DW: I think Germany has a way of getting things, coming and going, as does much of Europe. Many more holidays than we get here in the States!

    And thanks for your "vote of confidence" for the Wolf :) I needed that.

    Christina: Remember when I told you that you stole my thunder back in February? You told me then to wait till today and make sure I posted about this. So maybe you really weren't lazy--just early!

    But no drums? Oh well, Der Frühling ist da regardless!

    Ruth: Oh wow! I just looked up
    and got my education. Thanks.

  5. This is so interesting Ginnie - great post. I think the witches must have visited us last night in the form of immature 20 something's. They had techno music blaring so our appartment bounced well into after 11:30pm. Poor P!!! He has to get up so early which is not nice! They were yelling and screaming and I just wanted to give them something to worry about! I wished we could do more... Oh well... But it's windy here. I think Spring will start this week though according to reports.

  6. B's physiotherapist went to Walpurgisnacht and I can't wait to see her Wednesday so find out how it was. It's been so cold here at night that I'm sure she was glad to be around all the fires.

  7. I ward off the evil spirits by reading aloud transcripts of Rush Limbaugh's radio show.

    Truly frightening.

  8. May 1st is also the worker's day, that I celebrated in... well, working!

    And that little witch looks really cool!

  9. I love that!!! Whoopin it up for the last time before spring! Gosh, why didn't I know it was time to whoop it up, I could have used a little liveliness!

  10. If you are interested in learning more about Beltane and King Arthur, rent "The Mists of Avalon." A beautiful (hi-)story.

  11. Nice story Ginnie. I actually thought that the witches gathered on Brocken in June, so I guess I learned something today :-)

  12. ET: There should be a law that if May Day is NOT a holiday where you live, no NOISE the night before. So sorry you had to put up with that. Wonder if it was coincidental or they really were celebrating Walpurgisnacht.

    Dixie: Make sure you let us know how she celebrated :)

    Mr. Fab: HAHAHAHAHA.

    Clo: So on worker's day you have to work! Go figure.

    Rachel (twice): HA. I can just see you whooping it up. Your smile alone would scare away anything evil! BTW, we have The Mists of Avalon, the movie and the book. Don't you just love Angelica Huston!

    Gustav: Well, I learned something too--all of it!

  13. It's funny that some regions throughout Europe celebrate the first of May so differently. I think there may be a few villages in Switzerland that celebrate the Walpurgisnacht, others celebrate the official fiest of spring. What we hear about most, are the many workers demonstrating in the streets of the bigger cities.

    Oh... and last but not least, people like me who just enjoy the day off ;-)

  14. CS: You're down-right lucky to have had a holiday out of it! Any excuse for a day off is good enough for me :)