The first day in May is a national holiday in Germany and many other countries - see if you can answer this month's Inbox Question correctly!
Celebrating the first of May has ancient pagan origins, with many of the particular customs currounding this time still practised today. Since modern times this day now also marks another celebration.
The earliest celebrations on May first appeared in pre-Christian Europe in the Celtic celebrations of Beltane and the Walpurgis Night of the Germanic countries. But the first day of May is probably best known for the tradition of dancing around the May Pole.
In the rural regions of Germany, people still have Walpurgisnacht – traditionally held on the last day of April – where they light bonfires and wrap May poles in preparation for the next day.
On the first of May the May pole – a tree trunk covered in colourful ribbons, flowers and other decorations - is put up and people dance and sing around it. The Maypole and the dance celebrate the end of winter and the return of Spring. And of course, in typical German style many people also celebrate with beer and wurst (or sausage) too!
In the Rhine region of Germany, it is also tradition for young men to anonymously deliver a tree known as a maibaum or May tree to the front yard of the girl they are interested in. The maibaum is usually a birch tree covered in crepe paper streamers, often with the name of their love interest on a big heart-shaped sign. And it's not surprising that May is the busiest month for weddings in Germany!
But the first day in May is really two holidays in one. May first is also International Workers' Day. In Germany it's also known as 'Tag der Arbeit', or Labour Day. Labour Day is an annual holiday that is observed all around the world, celebrating the social and economic achievements of workers. In the United States, however, it is celebrated on a different day – the first Monday in September. Labour Day also tends to be a day of demonstrations, with many people taking to the streets to highlight problems facing workers. In some areas, these demonstrations turn into clashes between the protesters and the police.
What we want to know here at Inbox this month is: "Why is the first of May an official holiday in Germany. Is it
A) to give people time to dance around the Maypole
B) to celebrate International Workers' Day
C) To mark the beginning of spring.
Answers should be sent in no later than April 30th
Send your answer by e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org or as a text message to +49 160148 1000, or by post to Deutsche Welle, English Service, Inbox, 53110 Bonn, Germany.
There's a shortwave radio for the winner and some great consolation prizes for the runners-up.
As always, we are also interested in receiving your personal stories, thoughts or feelings about any national celebrations in your home country.
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