The May Tree is a pagan ritual across countries celebrating the foliage and fecundity of trees in Spring. In Cologne, the tradition of MaiBäume goes back to the 16th century but is still very popular to this day. On the last night of April, someone in love buys a birch tree, decorates it with ribbons and a wooden heart and places it in the garden or under the window of the loved one, guarding it overnight from other lovers or mischief makers. The city wakes up on the first of May with love declarations all around.

Digging into the roots of this interaction with the birch tree, this project intends to propose contemporary interpretations of the May Tree tradition. A group of international students from the Köln International School of Design investigated vernacular uses of the birch tree that can be celebrated at the end of May. Recycling the cut MaiBäume of the defeated lovers in the city, they explored old crafts such as making paper from the bark, making drinks from the sap or dyeing fabrics from birch trees. They designed rituals for the spring that are in line with the values of our time : circular thinking, local sourcing and gender fluidity. At the end of the week, the group demonstrated their creations in the courtyard of the school, in a festive celebration of love and spring, under the colors of the birch tree.