May 1 is Tag der Arbeit, Labour Day. Traditionally this is the day of the workers' movement. The trade unions keep organizing demonstrations and events. They attract less and less participants, though. People take the unions' achievements for granted nowadays.
To most people, May 1 is just a welcome day off. The usual activity on that day is a hiking trip with the family, a club or a bunch of friends, including a stopover in a beer garden. Even people who never set foot out of their house all year will go for a walk in the forest on May 1. Bike tours are considered a suitable alternative.
May is the Wonnemonat, the month of joy. Tanz in den Mai, dances, are popular in the evening of April 30, also singing events called Maieinsingen.
Younger people prefer Walpurgisnacht parties, though.
In the catholic church, May 1 is the holiday of St Walpurgis. The night before is Walpurgisnacht when, according to legends, the witches meet to dance on certain mountain tops, the Brocken ("Blocksberg") being the best-known location. When the witches are out and about, also non-magical young humans feel the need to be naughty. If they stick to harmless pranks like wrapping someone's car in toilet paper or inserting a handful of washing powder into a fountain, all right. However, with the amounts of alcohol consumed, often the pranks don't stay harmless and real damage is caused. Walpurgisnacht is a busy night for the police.
Even worse... This date has, unfortunately, become popular both among neonazis and ultra-left-wing Autonome groups for marches and demonstrations, in other words: riots. Hamburg and Berlin have become hotspots, certain areas in these cities should be avoided that night and day. These areas are relatively small, though. The rest of the cities will stay as peaceful as usual. If you happen to be in Hamburg or Berlin on April 30, ask your hotel reception which are the areas to avoid.
Maibaum - The May Tree
May is the month of young leaves and fresh green - or used to be, with the recent climate changes the trees are already green by mid April. Nevertheless a lot of May customs and decorations involve twigs with fresh leaves. In some areas the guys put up small decorated birch trees in the gardens of their favourite girls.
In some regions, mostly in the south, a Maibaum (May tree) is put up in the middle of the village. It consists of a big tree trunk with a small green tree attached to the top, often a fir wreath, colourful ribbons, wood-carved figures, and the signs of local clubs and firms who joined in the preparations resp. donated the beer.
The Maibaum is erected in the evening of April 30. This event involves the whole village, the official tapping of the first beer barrel and usually a lot more beer, music and dancing and partying in the square.
Villagers keep watch of their own tree and try to get their hands onto someone else's. Having their May tree felled and robbed is the worst shame that could happen to a community, and the greatest triumph for the robbers, usually the young guys (and girls) from a neighbouring village. The victims may not have a tree for the following seven years.
In the 2008 opening parade of the Plärrer festival in Augsburg, which took place in August(!), the "Hainhofener May Tree Robbers" still proudly presented their trophy.
Lessons from the news on May 1, 2009: If you plan to rob a May tree, take a saw that is strong enough. In a village in our surroundings some guys tried to fell a May tree last night but their saw got stuck and they had to call the fire brigade for help.
Oh the embarrassment...
In other words: Bwahahahaha!