The barrel is tapped in Munich. O’zapft, as the Bavarians would call it. Anyway: Beer is served. And I am already tired of the words which are proclaimed at the opening of numerous Oktoberfests around the world. O’zapft in Hannover, o’zapft in Fulda, o’zapft in Cincinnati. Tomorrow, the tap will be o’zapft in Bingen. Bingen is a small, snug town in Germany, situated at the entrance to the Middle Rhine Valley. A merchant town surrounded by vineyards. Wine festivals have been an integral part of the town’s cultural calendar for decades. You wouldn’t associate Bingen with beer and Bavarian lifestyle.
This article is not going to be about Bingen and the Oktoberfest Bingen. Because Bingen could be exchanged for numerous other towns. Mainz also has an Oktoberfest. Mainz, one of the Great Wine Capitals, is internationally renowned for its wine. Hannover, home to the world’s largest and most famous shooting match, hosts an Oktoberfest. There are Oktoberfests (or German beer festivals as they are called internationally) in Canada and the USA, in Australia, Vietnam and Hong Kong. The Brazilian Oktoberfest in Blumenau – a city that was founded by German immigrants – has long developed into the second largest fair of Brazil – just after the Carnival in Rio.
The Oktoberfest is an export hit. It might be because of the beer, it might be due to good marketing. All the world wants to celebrate like Munich. Some of these fairs have long been established as festivals of their own, but every year new Oktoberfests sprout up from the ground. Even superstores invite their customers to Oktoberfests. But how can a traditionally Bavarian festival be celebrated in Hong Kong? What qualifies a small town at the Middle Rhine to set up its own Oktoberfest? What qualifies a superstore?
Oktoberfests in Brazil, Samba in Munich?
You might want to argue that it is great how Bavarian culture cleaves its way into the world. But it isn’t. Because you won’t get an original only because some clever promoter copies a successful festival concept. Culture and traditions are beautiful in their original surrounding. In the places they belong. At many a copied Oktoberfest, beer mugs and people dressed up in dirndls and leather pants are the only reminders of the original Oktoberfest. The events, whether they take place in Bingen, Hannover, Sydney, or Brazil, are arbitrary.
Just as Bingen has its wine festivals, alle the places which celebrated an Oktoberfest today have their own, historically grown festivals and traditions. What if Munich – where there grows no wine at all – stopped celebrating its Oktoberfest in order to make room for a wine fair, probably in connection with a Vietnamese lantern festival? What if Hanoi went crazy for a shooting match? And what if elementary school kids in Canada would have Samba on their timetables for all the kids that dream about being part of one of the great Carnival Parades in Vancouver or Alberta?
What if we could have everything for which we would usually have to leave our comfort zone, everywhere? At some point, places would be interchangeable, places and their festivals. And we would no longer have an incentive to travel get to know foreign traditions.
By the way: Anna doesn’t have anything against Oktoberfests and beer drinking. On the contrary, she loves the Oktoberfest. The real one, that is…