German Labor Day to be celebrated this week with May poles, parties and dances

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- Thursday, May 1, is German Labor Day, a federal German holiday celebrating the working class and associated with annual May Day traditions, including a 'witches' night.'

German businesses may be closed, and German people will be out with families and friends, participating in walks and outings.

Some will use the day to go fishing, bike riding or just enjoy a barbecue with friends in the backyard.

The night prior to German Labor Day is associated with tradition, called Hexennacht or Witches' Night. This tradition entails a number of different activities.

Almost every community in Germany will set up their own May pole on April 30. The local fire department typically brings the May Pole into town on a tractor, setting it up in the heart of the community.

The May pole (often referred to as the May tree), is a symbol of freedom and prestige to the community. That is why it is guarded around the clock by young people until May 1.

Parties are often held around the tree. Local guesthouses invite people to 'Dancing into May' celebrations.

Another tradition, associated with May Day, features the disappearing of loose items from people's property. While it is not allowed for people to steal items, the youngsters may move around items, such as flower pots or garden chairs or other items they can find. The items will 'disappear' and reappear somewhere else - even on a neighbors' roof.

The 'witches' are usually the youngsters from the community. It's very common for them to decorate peoples' houses, bushes and even cars with toilet paper.

During this holiday, it is not advisable to leave any loose items outside yout doors on Witches' Night.

If possible, people should also try to park their cars inside their garage for the night. Vandalism is not supposed to be part of the May Day traditions and must be reported to the German Polizei, if observed or happening.