May Day, Bank holiday, three-day weekend. In the UK the 1st of May is synonymous with a little time off work for some rest and relaxation in the beaming sunshine (if we’re lucky).In Germany, things are a little different. It’s referred to as ‘Labour Day’ and many have weird and wonderful celebrations to mark the occasion. Imagine dressing as a witch and dancing among the Harz mountains, a tradition known as Walpurgisnacht. Or trying to steal the May Day tree in Bavaria and ransoming it off for food and beer. But, as wacky and wonderful as these traditions are, Berliners have a slightly different take on May Day and opt for street parties, and a spot of left-wing protesting, it’s as insane as it sounds.
What on earth are you talking about? – protests and parties – I must know more
We hear you. It’s a strange concept to wrap your head around. The idea a street party could also play host to some real left-wing political protests. But, its origins lie in some very sound planning by the Berlin police to stop escalating violence during protests.
During the late 80s, many far left groups came to the Kreuzberg area to protest significant political unrest, including the boycott of the nationwide census of 1987 and The Red Army Fractions prisoner hunger strike in 1988. Many of these demonstrations were documented in the worldwide press. As the years progressed many of the protests became extremely violent and would often get out of hand.
But in later years the Berlin police came up with a sensational idea and used alternative events throughout the city to counter the escalating violence. Today a street party is organised along the path used by rioters. By having thousands of peaceful people dancing and enjoying themselves on the streets of Berlin the violence will stop before it can even begin.
So what kinds of people can I expect to boogie with on May 1st?
Good question. The people of Berlin are generally a friendly bunch and on the 1st of May, you can expect to see a colourful crowd dancing and generally having a great time. These are just a few of the folk you could be dancing with all night long in Berlin’s famous street party.