A maypole is a tall pole with ribbons attached to the top around which people dance to celebrate springtime celebrations, particularly May Eve or beltane but also occasionally Midsummer. The tradition has its roots in Germanic tradition.
The pole is traditionally made of maple, hawthorn or birch. Ribbons may be all colors of the rainbow or certain symbolic colors according to the tradition. The pole itself may be plain or decorated with wreathes and flowers. One tradition has a wreath at the top of the pole held up by the ribbons extended in all directions. As the dancers circle the pole the wreath moves down the pole.
The maypole dance usually begins with the celebrants standing in a circle around the pole alternating male and female. The males all turn to face one direction and the females the other. When the dance begins, alternating dancers move in opposite directions ducking under and over each others ribbons so that the the ribbons weave their way down the pole. People may sing as they dance or drummers or other musicians may accompany the dance.
The maypole is often considered a phallic symbol and the dance and the weaving of the ribbons a symbolic demonstration of the union of male and female- i.e. the sex act. The tradition of men preparing and bringing the pole and women digging the hole enhances this idea.
The Maypole also may represent Yggdrasil.
Creating a Maypole
The easiest way to create a maypole is to start with a tall, young tree that has been cut down. Trim away the branches and cut the top to a reasonable height, but before it gets to narrow. Ribbons can be attached using nails or a staple gun. Dig a hole at least a foot deep, two feet is better, to ensure that the pole won't be pulled over by exuberant dancers. Put the bottom end of the pole in the hole, bury it and secure it with rocks at the base if necessary. If you are going to use the same hole year after year, you may wish to stick a length of PVC pipe into the hole and secure that and then just stick your pole in the pipe. After the dance, the pole can be removed and kept for next year, or burned at samhain.