Beware of mischief on German Labor Day
by Iris Reiff
52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
4/22/2010 - SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- German Labor Day is approaching when the "witches" will be strolling through town.
There is a special reason not to leave things outside and to park the car in the garage that time. It's "witches night," happening April 30, the night before "Tag der Arbeit" or Labor Day, a federal German holiday.
Starting around bedtime and until the next morning the mysterious witches are haunting the town, causing some strange things to happen.
The "witches," known to be the youngsters in town, make things disappear from one spot and show up somewhere else. In the past, witches have picked up patio furniture at one person's house and moved it into the next-door neighbor's front yard or on the roof. An American family was once looking for some toys left on the patio overnight and later found them scattered throughout the area and hanging in a nearby tree. Items that commonly disappear are flower pots, trash cans and door mats.
While it is rather difficult to prevent things from appearing in your front yard following witches night, it is fairly easy to make sure nothing disappears by moving things inside the house for the night.
Also, don't be surprised if you find your car decorated with toilet paper or other items. It is recommended to park the vehicle inside a garage if you don't want it decorated.
In the Eifel, people observe Labor Day or May Day with a variety of different customs and traditions to include witches night. The most common symbol for the holiday is the May pole, a symbol of freedom. Almost every community has their own May pole, usually set up by members of the local fire departments. Since the May pole is also an object of prestige for a town, it must be guarded around the clock during witches night to prevent against theft or destruction by neighboring village youth.
Other customs associated with May Day feature dances and celebrations in either a gasthaus or community hall. Although many of the traditions are observed by youngsters, especially bachelor's clubs, most Germans use the holiday to spend time with friends and family. People either take a trip or host a barbecue, if weather permits. It is also customary for Germans to go on a walk or volksmarch on May Day.