This is an old - not maintained - article of the AEIOU.
In the Austria-Forum you find an updated version of this article in the new AEIOU.
May Customs. According to long-established traditions the night between April 30 and May 1 is called "Unruhnacht" (Night of unrest) (Burschenschaft). During the night, secret amours are made public ("Maisteig") and piles of junk are put in front of the doors of unpopular members of the community. All over Austria maypoles and "may plaques" are set up and decorated with wreaths and ribbons. Originally they served as a mark of respect for girls or venerable members of the community. The first documented mention of such maypoles dates from 1466. This custom was forbidden during the 17th century but re-introduced in the 19th century. Customs and entertainments connected with the maypole have ever since included pole climbing competitions or the practice of stealing the maypoles from neighbouring villages. The law regards the stealing of the already decorated maypole as a custom, if it is brought back in time and in full splendour. However, it is considered a penal offence to cut down the maypole after it has already been set up in its official place. To prevent the maypole from being stolen, boys guard it at night. During the Middle Ages the maypole was considered a legal symbol (at fairs and other celebrations); later it became a mark of respect for girls and has only been regarded as a symbol of village communities since the period of the Nazi regime.