Another weekend and then Octoberfests in Northern California are nearly over for this year. I am amazed that this Bavarian tradition/event has become so popular in the U.S. According to data from the German Magazine Spiegel, this is not that unusual since over 3,000 Oktoberfests are celebrated worldwide. I have to admit that I have never been to the Oktoberfest in Munich when I lived in Europe; I am now kind of regretting that oversight. In contrast to most American tourists to Germany, I have not even been to the Hofbraeuhaus even though I have been to Munich plenty of times. The irony is that I have attended many American versions of the Oktoberfest since I have moved here. Since I have joined a Bavarian folk dance group, I am now also performing at plenty of these events; the weeks of performances have become a fifth season with its own traditions, atmosphere, and energy.
Since joining the Bavarian folk dance group at the beginning of the year, I have learned about other German and Austrian folk dance groups in North America, which are organized into something called a Gau [which I see as odd choice but more about this some other time]. A whole new sub-culture has revealed itself. The irony for me is that I have learned more about traditional Austrian and Bavarian dress, hairstyles, dances, and songs than I have ever known when I actually lived in Austria. Now that I am living in the U.S., I dance landler and polkas and dress in a dirndl nearly every weekend day throughout September and October while I would not have been caught dead at these events as a teenager in Austria. I am not sure if this change had occurred because I am now older or because I have moved away from Austria or maybe it is a mixture of both.
No matter the reason, I am fully enjoying my first Oktoberfest season as dancer and the camaraderie of the other dancers. Many of the other dancers do have German or Austrian roots, but few were actually born and raised in Austria or Germany. Many of the dancers in the U.S. dream about attending the Oktoberfest in Munich and some do make the trip and walk in the official parade. Germans seem rather surprised and a little confused by the strong support for Bavarian culture by the Americans as seen by this news segment by Bavarian Public Television: http://www.br.de/mediathek/video/sendungen/abendschau-der-sueden/amerikaner-bayern-100.html