Anyone who wants to steal a maypole and demand a release must follow a few rules. These are an important part of the traditional custom.

In many communities, the annual setting up of a maypole is part of spring. The tradition of stealing the maypole has developed around this custom, but it comes with strict rules. They are usually young men in a group trying to steal another community’s maypole in order to demand compensation in the form of food and beer.

The most important rule: A maypole must not be stolen if it is already up. In this case the boys have failed and will have to wait for next year. Only maypoles lying within the municipal boundaries are permitted for theft.

The stolen maypole must be stored outside the municipal boundaries. Only then is the theft considered successful and the thieves can demand payment.

Of course, the thieves must not damage the maypole during the theft and storage. Likewise, it is not allowed to steal the decorations, only the trunk itself.

If the thieves are caught within the municipal boundaries, the operation is considered unsuccessful. In this case they must withdraw.

If the thieves do not receive a release, the foreign maypole is set up in their own community. The successful robbers reward their community with a second maypole, which is considered a cheeky provocation.

Important: Police, lawyers, etc. are taboo when stealing the maypole. It’s a fun custom that shouldn’t have any legal consequences as long as everyone involved sticks to the rules.

As with any custom at home, there may be regional differences in the rules. These must be taken into account before potentially stealing the maypole.

In southern Germany, for example, it is typical that stealing the maypole is only considered honorable if the tree is hidden. If it is lying in plain view in the marketplace, it is not worth stealing.

A traditional rule in Bavaria is that the trees may only be stolen on Walpurgis Night. Very few people stick to this today, as the maypoles are often put up before April 30th.

In Austria and the Swabian Oberland, only people who have put up a maypole themselves are allowed to steal other trees. It is therefore important that the thieves know their way around maypoles.

In East Frisia, on the other hand, a tree is not stolen directly, but is only given three spade cuts. It is then considered stolen and transported to the other community.