Former German Studies students Mark Riggleman and Sam Thacker at this year’s Oktoberfest on the Wies’n in Munich, Germany
Fall is the time of harvest, gathering together to celebrate the fruits of the earth, and for the German Studies section at W&M, the moment for Oktoberfest. Each year the German Studies Section of the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures rallies the members of the German House and all German Studies students to take part in a ritual that has been a powerful sign of German hospitality and sociability since the 19th century: gathering on the Theresienwiese in Munich to share a beer, and a table, often with strangers, to participate in the world’s largest fair, with over 6 million in attendance.
Oktoberfest is a 16 day event held from mid-September to the first week in October. It began with a royal marriage. On October 12, 1810, Crown Prince Ludwig, later to become King Ludwig I, celebrated his wedding to Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen. The citizens of Munich were invited to attend the festivities held on the fields in front of the city gates to celebrate the royal event. The fields were named Theresienwiese (“Theresa’s meadow”) in honor of the Crown Princess, today abbreviated as die Wies’n. The beers at Oktoberfest must be brewed by one of the authorized Munich breweries: Augustiner-Bräu, Hacker-Pschorr-Bräu, Löwenbräu, Paulaner-Bräu, Spatenbräu, and Staatliches Hofbräu-München. Only beer conforming to the German Beer Purity Laws (Reinheitsgebot), with a minimum of 13.5% original wort (Stammwürze, approximately 6% alcohol) may be served at Oktoberfest. And Oktoberfest itself is a registered trademark of the Club of German Brewers.
At W&M, of course, we have do without the essential element of beer, but we can create a sumptuous table of savory sausages and kraut, pretzels, hamburgers, potato salads and an assortment of cakes, to bring in the fall. This year, we had over sixty students, faculty and staff and their families attend the festival.
Carolin Wattenberg, the German House Tutor from Münster, Germany 2012-2013, Rob Leventhal, Associate Professor and Section Head, and Maria Morrison, Visiting Assistant Professor of German Studies, spent the day preparing for the festival, which began at 4pm. A perfect fall Saturday greeted the guests at the outdoor commons area and grill at the Randolph Complex. When we ran out of Bratwürste halfway through the festival, Maria and Carolin made a heroic trip to the store so we could feed the hungry students, faculty and families who gathered at the Randolph Complex. It was a wonderful day and a good time had by all.
RL/den 12. November 2012