With the holiday season coming up, celebrating during a pandemic will be a unique challenge. In recognition of our Germanic heritage, Oktoberfest has been a popular tradition in my family, spanning the last week of September to the first week of October.
The celebration originated in 1810 when Crown Prince Ludwig (later King Ludwig I of Bavaria) married Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen and the couple was honored with a horse race in Munich. Later, the annual event added shows and carnival booths to promote Bavarian agriculture. The festival has grown and evolved over time, including more fair booths and games, carousels, performers, musicians, and breweries.
As Oktoberfest became more commercialized in recent decades, smaller festivals have popped up in major cities around the world, featuring their own local performers, brews, and artists. Instead of horse races, running races such as marathons and 5Ks are now popular additions to kick off the festival weekend. The races are probably my favorite modern spin on the holiday, along with ridiculous games such as balancing beer steins in your arms.
This year, I plan to celebrate Oktoberfest from the comfort of my home or backyard, depending on the weather. Instead of running in an Oktoberfest race with thousands of participants, you’ll see me run through the neighborhood on my own. Instead of attending a folk festival, like the one each year in Leavenworth, I will taste German lagers, pretzels, sauerkraut, and sausages from my own kitchen.
While we might not be able to gather for Oktoberfest this year, I know people around the world will join me in raising a glass to celebrate. Prost!
Photo: Larissa and a friend celebrating Oktoberfest in Leavenworth, Wash. after the annual marathon there to mark the holiday.
NOTE: This article was published in October 2020 Connections, featuring “Homebound Holidays in the Highlands: Celebrating Together, Apart in Issaquah Highlands.” Stories were provided by the Issaquah Highlands Cross-Cultural Committee. Read more stories in this series here.