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Raising the maypole or maiatza

Fiestas, traditions and events of interest / Thematic day

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Many of Navarre's villages acclaim the arrival of the goddess of spring to the shout of "¡Atentos! ¡Oooohp!" (Watch out! Oooop!) (Iturmendi) or "Arriba Mayo, tiente tieso que yo me caigo" (Up you get May, stay upright for I am falling) (Larraona). This ritual, which consists of lifting a tree trunk at the top end of which trophies, hens, ring-shaped pastries, coins, and so on, are tied, is a means of asking for the local crops to be protected. Documented from the 16th century onwards, the tradition would seem to date back to at least the Roman pagan world. It is now celebrated throughout the month of May.

Although celebrated in many localities, the most important examples are those in :
  • Sakana, in Iturmendi, Etxarri Aranatz, Bakaiku.
  • The Estella region, in San Martin and Larraona, Zudaire and Murieta .
  • The Ribera region, in Barillas.
     
     
The locals cut down and debark the chosen tree (beech or poplar depending on the locality) a few days beforehand.

The ritual is slightly different in each village. In Iturmendi, almost 80 people help raise the pole, a beech trunk measuring some 19 metres. In Etxarri Aranatz and Bakaiku, the maiatza is erected high up on top of the Sierra de Urbasa, carrying on the tradition of the shepherds, who used to raise the pole to indicate that they had taken their flocks up into the mountains. In Murieta, an effigy representing all evil is tied to the top and then burned on the last Sunday of the month. In Larraona, all the locals take part in the ritual dressed in traditional attire and then have a popular lunch followed by a lively tour of the village with drinks.

The celebrations last all day, so go along to one of the villages and enjoy the exciting raising of the maypole first hand with the locals. And may your harvest be generous!
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