The first of May is Labor Day (Tag der Arbeit). The international Workers' Congress in Paris designated May Day as a public holiday in 1889, and in 1919 the National Assembly in Weimar declared it a public holiday in Germany.
Many customs and symbols are connected with May Day.
The traditional Maypole dance starts with ling ribbons attached high up on the pole. Each dancer holds the end of the ribbon. The circle of dancers begins far out from the pole, so the ribbons are kept fairly taut. There should be an even number of dancers, facing alternatively clockwise and counterclockwise. All dancers move in the direction they are facing, passing right shoulders with the next, and so on around to braid the ribbons over-and-under around the pole. Those passing on the inside will have to duck. Those passing on the outside raise their ribbons to slde over.
In Bavaria May 1st is an especially important day. In Bavarian villages, it has been the custom for centuries to cut a tall and straight tree, a day or two before May 1st, place it in the middle of the village and decorate it with a wreath of spring flowers and colorful ribbons. One of the traditions is to attempt to steal the Maypole of the neighboring village the night before and to hold it for ransom (the ransom usually being a few cases of beer!)
Another Bavarian tradition is the Maibaumkraxeln (Maypole climbing) contest. In many parts of Bavaria guys battle to see who can climb up teh shaven and polished tree trunk the fastest, a task made even tougher by soaping down the Maypole, so that climbers only succeed if they smear ashes, tree sap or pitch on their hands. The goal is to win the Brezeln and Wuerste (pretzels and sausages) that hang on top of the pole and impress the girls down in the crowd.