photo : Seriykotik1970
May Day – also known in some countries as Labour Day – is a holiday celebrated in Austria. It’s associated with love, lust and lasciviousness!
Originally a celebration of spring, May Day also became associated with celebrating the economic and social achievements of workers during the 1800′s. It marked the successful lobbying for the 8 hour working day, on the part of the Labour Unions of the time.
As a celebration of spring, May Day celebrations are characterised by ancient customs and associated traditions that originate in the Roman Festival of Flowers. This involved the gathering of branches and flowers, as well as dancing round a bush or tree.
May Day celebrations in Austria are joyous and fun-filled affairs. The ceremonial raising of the pole adorned with a wreath and greenery from a tree, is accompanied by much music, feasting and merriment.
In some areas you may find ‘Maiherz’ adorning trees and bushes. In bygone times, young men would place wooden hearts with messages to the lady of their love inscribed on them. The love hearts would also contain spells intended to secure the young woman’s affections.
More modern times has seen the tradition of making love hearts from such materials as styrofoam and paper flowers. Much less romantic than the careful carving of sweet nothings on blocks of balsa!
Whilst generally it is the men who engage in this rather cute custom, every Leap Year the roles are reversed. And 2012 is a leap year… Go girls!
Although there is no definitive view, it is believed that the May Day celebrations are derived from Roman mythology and in particular the Floralia Festival held between 28th April and 3rd May. This festival was in celebration of Flora, the Goddess of flowers, spring and fertility.
Over time, the emphasis on agricultural achievements changed and Flora (affectionately known here as Flo) became known as the Goddess of lust and promiscuity. Actresses celebrating in the Floralia Festival performed naked and incited all sorts of immorality among the workers!
So bad was the general wildness of behaviour that the Floralia Festival was banned during the 1700′s, but reintroduced some time later in a more modest and moderate form.
As well as being Goddess of flowers, Flo was also symbolic of drinking and lewdness. There was a general preoccupation with sex and sexual desire running through the celebrations. Obscene, indecent and lascivious behaviour probably resulted from the drinking!
Rumour has it that drinking also characterises some of the celebrations in rural areas of Austria to this day. But you would need to go see for yourself, to find out if this is true.
What does happen, is ‘Maibaumbesteigens’. After the Maibaum (decorated tree or maypole) has been erected it is traditional for the young and young at heart, to try to steal the tree. Guards are placed on duty to protect it. If the thieves are successful, a delegation is sent to negotiate the return of the tree. I understand this involves a barrel of beer or two!
All precautions are taken to try to foil any dastardly deed, including using local Fire engines to block the roads and Police escorts where necessary to apprehend the rogues. The ‘sentencing’ of the thieves if caught in the act, is a most serious affair. Show trials are held in public and sentencing is sorted – also with the help of a barrel of beer or two!
But I’m sure this wouldn’t happen in sweet little Stadl, where you might wish to stay in this traditional rustic style chalet.
What happens in nearby Murau though, may be another matter!