The sun has set, and we are well into the eve of October 1st.
October is a big holiday for my people, and I have deep concerns about how it’s been incorrectly celebrated over the years. One might even say that this holiday has been… appropriated*.
I’m concerned because I believe that some of the people who celebrate this holiday have never experienced a German Summer. There are these daft illusions that Europeans get “all of August off” as though it’s some sort of extra vacation.
There’s a possibility these people haven’t awakened early in the day to attach the Mähbalken to the tractor to go to the fields and cut down the hay. And then do it again. And again. And again. For days.
I’m concerned that some of them have not then waited anxiously for three days for the stalks to dry, hoping there will be no summer thunderstorm (there are often summer thunderstorms, you know, clouds peeling the sky back to expose broad thunder, lightning coursing to the ground or destroying the tallest trees), don’t know that you can’t immediately bundle it or it’ll mold.
I don’t know if they’ve attached the Strohpresse (works just as well for Heu) to the tractor, racing through the fields as best they can, knowing that going too slowly will mean a loose bundle, too quickly will mean an overpacked bundle, that patience and consistence runs deep in the blood of the German people and that “right” will trump “quick” every time but both together would be preferable and really, much more efficient.
Does everyone who celebrates in October know the sweet joy of stopping briefly to drink Gerolsteiner (from a glass bottle, thanks) and eat salami-butter sandwiches, racing against time to get everything baled before the afternoon thunderstorm. If it rains after it’s bundled, that’s ok; you wait again. Have these people lifted the heavy bales into makeshift hay houses out of hay bales to protect as many bundles as possible? Made a game of it?
I’m pretty sure that one or two of these people have never loaded the flatbed trailer onto the old tractor, the one from 1917 that Just. Keeps. Going… and loaded all of those bales onto it, carefully balancing the weight load, not teetering too high because that dip just before you leave the field and get onto the country road will knock all of your hard work onto the country road. Maybe they’ve never driven the flatbed carefully. precariously. with all the caution in the world… into the barnyard, pulling up next to the hayloft and then sweat, competing with siblings and cousins and uncles, whoever’s around, to see who can throw the bales the highest, the furthest back into the loft, the work that gets more and more difficult the more work you do because the distance between the bottom of the loft and the top of the bale stack increases as the work goes on. Maybe they don’t know that making that trip several times in a day is an act that can only be committed with a good share of teasing, sibling rivalry, and pride in workmanship.
How many of them know the feeling of the blistering sun, the sweat dripping in their eyes, being covered in hay, and hay dust, and itching EVERYWHERE, from allergies or from tiny little abrasions, the sunburn on top of sunburn until it just doesn’t matter anymore because, damnit, the sun gives us warmth AND character?
Some of them have no idea that the beer after those days, weeks, months of work is the best beer a German ever consumes, even if it’s just Trumer. It doesn’t matter; it’s consumed outside, poured into glasses (because drinking from the bottle is just gauche, except not gauche because that’s French and well, we have issues), the luxury of not having to change to your inside shoes to enjoy it. That, on the farm, there isn’t really any drinking at all until all of this work is done and that to drink two in one evening is an extravagance afforded the hardest workers, the bale-tossers who didn’t give up even as their eyes watered and their skin itched and their lips split and their noses peeled. That a malzbier is just as good because it’s not a competition; it’s sharing a beverage and company and a job well done at the end of the day. I have faith, though, that most of the people enjoying this holiday are celebrating its true meaning and the heart of its intent, not drinking themselves into oblivion out of boots while wearing slutty dirndls, and faux (again with the French) Lederhosen (do yourself a favor and learn the difference between leather pants and song pants), and to you I wish a Frohes Oktoberfest.
*this post is satire. Let’s please all appreciate that not all adoption of ritual and celebration is appropriation; sometimes it’s acknowledgment of and respect that and appreciation that another culture really Got It Right. Perhaps, if someone could learn a bit more about it, a funny post, instead of shaming and self-righteous indignation, will help them to learn what you might hope they’d learn about a culture about which you care.