Lili – October 16, 2017
“But mom, if all my friends are going to Oktoberfest, why can’t I?” whined Olivia. I resisted the temptation to ask her the age-old “mom” question: If everyone jumped off a bridge, would you do it, too? “It’s not like I’m going to drink or anything, although you do know that if we lived in Denmark, I’d be able to drink legally now,” said my daughter, who recently turned 18.
“There’s a lot to do at Oktoberfest,” she persisted. There are loads of bands and food and, well…Andrew is going.” Andrew is Olivia’s latest crush, so I could see why this was so important.
“I don’t know, I’ll have to talk to Daddy about it,” I said, hesitating. There is, after all, nothing more fun than Oktoberfest. I wondered if my ancestral family ever attended Oktoberfest before they moved to Chicago in the 1860s, about 30 years before my great-great-grandmother, Margrethe Olsen, helped found The Danish Home.
Speaking of The Danish Home, I should be there now for a committee meeting instead of debating with my daughter. I love any chance I get to go to The Danish Home, especially in autumn with all of its lovely trees boasting their colors. Usually at this time of year, The Danish Home celebrates its annual Fallfest, featuring fall fun and one of my favorite Danish foods, frikadellers. But just for this year, since the home is celebrating its 125th anniversary, Lillejuleaften (an enchanting “little Christmas”) will happen instead, on December 9. (Never fear, those delicious frikadellers will be there!)
Historically, Oktoberfest started with a royal wedding in Munich on October 12, 1810 – 81 years before the founding of The Danish Home. When Crown Prince Ludwig (who became King Ludwig I) married Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghhausen, the citizens of Munich were invited to join in the festivities, which were held on the fields in front of the city gates. The convivial marital event ended with horse races open to all of Bavaria. The decision to repeat the horse races the following year gave birth to the tradition of Oktoberfest throughout the years.
Although Oktoberfest has its roots in Germany, it is now celebrated around the world. The Danish are particularly enthusiastic about it; so much so, they have two celebrations! In mid-September, the Carlsberg site at Valby, Copenhagen, is the venue for Europe’s largest beer festival. Everyone dresses up in dirndl skirts or lederhosen shorts, and there’s live Tyrolean music as well as real German beer and great Bavarian food.
In Denmark, another kind of “Oktoberfest” takes places in the spring. The Copenhagen Beer Celebration in May proves that the Danes don’t need to wait until October to enjoy beer and frivolity. They don’t have to depend on German beer either, as they have their own highly acclaimed Carlsberg brew.
“You know, Olivia, the more I think about it, the more I think you should go to Oktoberfest,” I told my daughter. “Traditions are very important, wherever they’re from. Why don’t I go with you? It’ll be great.”
Olivia paled. “What? No! Now you’ve ruined it! I don’t think I’ll go at all!”
“What was all that about?” said Brad, coming out of the kitchen with a beer in his hand.
“Just our daughter not quite growing up,” I smiled, taking a sip. “Skol!”