Hexennacht or A Night for Pranks

256px-MaibaumContwigOn May 1, a German holiday, a Maibaum (May pole) is erected in the center of the village. Dancing into the May is a popular pastime for teenagers and adults. Before we reached that stage, however, my friends and I were more interested in Hexennacht, the night from April 30 to May 1. Its origins go back to Walpurgisnacht, when, according to legend, the witches on the Brocken mountain held a huge celebration.

In my home region, the Pfalz, it was customary for us children to walk around the village after dark and play pranks. Since we were all girls, our tricks were pretty tame and extended to misplacing doormats and once, filling a door frame with bricks that were conveniently located nearby.

My grandparents and parents, however, were determined to put everything that could be removed under lock and key. They unhinged the garden gates and brought them into the basement or shed and removed the mat that lay at the bottom of our front stairs. In other words, they made sure we wouldn’t play any antics at our own house.

Years ago my dad told me what pranks he and his friends played in his childhood during the 1930s. Their coup was to disassemble a farmer’s wagon, put it up on top of the barn and assemble it again! Before they did that, they diverted the dog’s attention with a sausage. One has to admire the work involved in pulling this feat off. I bet they would have loved to see the face of that farmer the  next morning!Fotothek_df_roe-neg_0006472_039_Leiterwagen

I wonder why my dad deprived the kids of my generation of having some innocent fun. The answer is: he remembered his childhood antics all too well and knew what youths are capable of when given an opportunity!

Photo credits: May pole: Ramessos (Wikimedia Commons), Wagon: Roger &Renate Rössing (Wikimedia Commons)

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