First, an update to ourselves, this in 2008.
We recently learned about an ancient people called the Vends, the Vendic culture, in Slovenia and eastern and central Germany. Not only did the Vends or Wends thrive, with rulers in the line of succession being male or female, no discrimination or prohibition (the Slavica Lex), but many traditions and names survive - including the Maypole.
See what we found at Germany Road Ways, Vends, Ancient Culture; and in the land known as Carantania (Slovenia now, we believe, but boundaries were fluid) at Slovenia Road Ways, Expunged Ancient Dynasty of Carantania.
May and its high poles go back a long way.
May 1 is May Day- a public holiday since 1889. www.germanculture.com.ua/library/weekly/aa042601a.
Maypole, Germany, Schwabisch Hall
The Maypole with the dangles is at Schwabisch Hall, as we recall. See Schwabisch Hall post here. We arrived just after May Day, but many of the maypoles were still standing. No reason to take them down.
Maypole, Germany, Munich
Some Maypoles are the oldest traditional type- a real evergreen tree, tall tall, with all branches stripped except for the top five feet or so.
Much of Europe used to be forested with trees of this height - taken for centuries for ships and building.
Maypoles have a long history.
Read about the deep roots of the Maypole at http://www.lewrockwell.com/barnhart/barnhart11. And details and more details at german.about.com/od/holidaysfolkcustoms/a/mai. See http://www.art.com/asp/sp-asp/_/pd--12412179/sp--A/
Maypoles also are in England, see www.otleymaypole.org.uk/history. This site connects the English maypole with the Saxon invasions, see www.witchvox.com/va/dt_va.html?a=usmi&c=words&id=11291. Scroll down about 8 paragraphs, or do a little "find" for "maypole." Read the site if you don't mind things about pagan, or wicca, origins. I think all information is interesting. The site connects the Saxon use of red and white ribbons with "healing bandages," and the barberpole. It says some maypoles in Germany are 1600 years old.
The witchvox site also credits the origin of the maypole custom with the Basques and ancient Greeks. Must find out more.
Find out about other German holidays, so you can time your trip to see them, at www.germany.info/relaunch/culture/life/G_Kids/holidays.