May laurels


 Alain Miltgen

Luxembourg traditions: A “Méekranz” is a wreath made of fresh foliage, weaved by the village youth each year on May 1st, explains native Luxembourger Carole Miltgen.

The ingredients for a successful Méekranz are:

1 local pub

1 friendly landlord

1 sleepless night

1 hangover

1 tractor

1 group of people who can hold their drink

2 crates of beer (minimum)

Oh… and fresh spring foliage

Whilst some hit the streets with the trade unions for their traditional May 1st marches, others go into the wild. In some places the youth meet at midnight, have a barbecue and camp in the forest. In other places, the craftsmen only meet in the morning when the sun comes up.

Until recently my brother and his friends made a wreath for their local, the Duerfkessel. After collecting a couple of beer crates from the barkeeper, they would all drive to the nearest forest where they’d set up their campsite. At 8:00 in the morning, the teams would drive around with their tractor, collecting leafage.

The first gathering at the collecting camp was at 9:00 when the morning apéritif was served and the first group would start with the wreath weaving, whilst the others would go on a second round to find more material from Mother Nature.

Méekränz come in all sizes. In their case they did not fiddle about with a little one that you can hang on your door; they would go for the full arch, which would fit around the whole doorframe! The wreath craftsmanship was never about competition; however it is fair to say that the café with the biggest Méekranz obviously has the best customers.

Once the bottles in the crates were empty and the wreath had been completed, it was loaded onto the tractor and taken to the pub. The tractor would drive through the whole village, applauded by the locals and accompanied by the marching band.

Once they all arrived at the Duerfkessel, the leafage arch was installed and the landlord offered a round of schnapps to all the villagers.

Now that the hard work was out of the way, the festivities started. The barbecue was set up, the beer barrel was tapped, the brass band played; and drinking games were played (such us hitting a nail into a piece of wood with a hollow hammer). The village fête had been officially launched for young and old!

The tradition of bundling fresh foliage together in a wreath started long before May 1st has been known as the International Labour Day. Like so many, this tradition also goes back to a heathen feast during which blessed herbs and palm branches were scattered through the houses and each room was sprinkled with holy water, in order to keep the evil spirits at bay.

Since it also marked the start of the sunny season it was frequently doused by a hearty drinking session with May-wine.

Keep your eyes open and see if you’ll be able to spot some Méekranz outside your “Duerfcafé”.

Native Luxembourger Carole Miltgen is CEO of Prisma S.A., a project and document management firm in the funds sector. Her brother, Alain Miltgen, contributed to this article.