“Now that I start to pay attention, I realize that Germans find a lot of reasons to party”, I said when Francesca proposed to write about Tanz in den Mai-Dance into 1st of May”.
This night resembles those Christian churches you find all over Europe, which were erected on former pagan sacred sites. When I grew up, everybody in our village spent the afternoon of the 30th of April clearing the yard from anything moveable, because the night to come was the night of practical jokes. In the dark, the male village youth would gather and look for wheelbarrows, carts, or machinery left alone under the open sky. The next morning, negligent owners would find their possessions high up in a tree, fixed to a lamppost or heaved onto a roof.
My parents always where proud of securely stowing away everything. Nobody could get the better of them, nobody. Till one First of May, when my mother wanted to drive to a “Kaffee und Kuchen” invitation. At three a clock, she went out to get her car she parked on the curb. “Call the police”, she cried when she rushed back in 30 seconds later. “My car is stolen”. My father grabbed the phone. While he dialled, he looked out of the window. His eyes hit a red object sitting on the garage roof: my mother’s tiny Fiat 126.
In my village, this night strictly was “boys only”. Later I learnt that the 30th of April for centuries was the night out for the women. In mediveal belief, at Walpurgisnacht, witches mounted their sweeps and rode to the Brocken, a montain in the Harz, where they were to meet their master, the Devil, to a wild orgiastic dance. Goethe wrote about this myth in his “Faust”, the most classical of German classics. A he did it in part 2, which nobody ever reads, this Tanz in den Mai was forgotten for two centuries.
The feminist movement dug the legend out again, dusted it off, and made the 3oth of April a night out for the girls. This time, strictly no men. In lila dungarees I danced to Patti Smith or listened to Ina Deter wailing: Neue Maenner braucht das Land–what we need are new men.
As the new man still were in the making and the old type of men struck back in the conservative 90ies, the feminist movement lost power. The trade unions tried to pick up the newly neglected date and declared it the opening night of First of May, workers day, a public holiday in Germany. Now I drank beer for a good cause and listened to the Songs of International Solidarity.
As we got globalization and international recession instead, Tanz in den Mai was orphaned again. Today, the Club scene adopts the idea. As I walk through the streets, posters like this announce Tanz in den Mai in many of the many hip clubs in town.
Maybe I will try this one and listen to DJ Maxi. I don´t know his message, but at least this club admits people over 30, as Ü30 tells me.
Those age-brackets sprang up during the last few years. As nobody wants to get old but gets old anyway, the entertainment industry adapted to unchanged habits. Recently I even spotted a Ü40 sign, for all those who lived through the Ü30 parties of the last decade and still don´t want to give up on partying.
I´m one of them, though for a long time I didn´t go dancing because I wasn´t energetic enough any more to go out at 11 0´clock at night, dance till 2 0´clock in the morning, and then go to my office the next day – and even work there.
For people like me, the club owners invented the after-work party: it opens at 5 o´clock in the afternoon, dance starts at 8 o´clock. Thus, I can leave, pleasantly exhausted by hard dancing, at 10 o´clock. Sometimes I even can kiss my son good night.
Though I would prefer a Ü40 option here too. Last time I queued to get in the guard told me: “If you are here to get your son, maybe you would rather call him on his mobile.”
But this is another story.