A fun tradition in Slovenia is to set up a maypole, or as it is called here, a »Mlaj«. In the Netherlands, this old custom is still sometimes seen. Where it is often used in the Netherlands in the Easter period, it is customary in our area to set up a maypole for someone who celebrates a »round« birthday, ie 30, 40, 50, or 60 years. As I wrote in a previous blog, those birthdays are tackled big and they always start with setting up a maypole.
Maypoles are also set up at weddings at the bride’s parental home, but in this case, they put up two trees that are connected at the top with a banner or a wooden board. It then becomes a kind of gate and is intended to welcome the bridal couple. That is also written on the banner or the board.
Putting up a maypole for a birthday normally happens one day before the actual birthday or on the day itself. The men from the village go into the woods with a tractor and trailer to pick out a good pine tree and cut it down.
The tree is then hoisted onto the trailer and attached to the tractor. The bark of the tree is then scraped with special curved blades.
The top remains intact. It’s often being decorated with strings of colored paper.
All this is done in a very relaxed manner and with the necessary alcohol ;). When the tree is ready, it is driven to its destination where the birthday boy or girl is already waiting and has prepared food and drinks for everyone.
A spot is determined where the tree will be placed and then a large hole is dug, at least about a meter and a half deep. With joined forces, the tree is placed in the hole, which is then closed with soil and boulders.
Finally, there will be a »road sign« placed on the tree with the age of the person. In the case of a women’s birthday, it is usually in the shape of a flower. They won’t attach the sign when the tree is still on the ground …… No, that would be too easy of course J. This is done when the tree is already standing upright, and preferably as high as possible. When Dad turned 70 and a maypole was set up for him, Bine stood on the edge of the tractor-trailer which was then raised so he could hammer the sign onto the tree. Quite a stunt! He could go join the circus, hahaha.
After the tree has been set up, the »workers« get some more to eat and drink and the birthday is celebrated for the first time. The weekend after the birthday is usually the time for the »big« party and the second time the birthday is celebrated. Finally, a small, third celebration is held when the maypole is taken down. This happens as many days after the birthday as the person has aged. So if he or she turned 40, the tree will remain standing for 40 days. For my dad’s birthday, this meant the tree stayed up for 70 days! When the tree is being taken down, a group of men come together again and they have a drink (or two, or three…). All in all, they meet three times per birthday. And this period is full of meetings because there are parties no fewer than 3 weekends in a row. Two villagers are turning 50 and a couple are both celebrating their 60th birthday. In between, a maypole also had to be taken down for someone who had turned 40 before. They are quite busy with all this at the moment ;).