On a beautiful, although disturbingly hot, mid-September day, I am out running errands with the kids.
We are zooming along in our automobile, with the windows down, singing along with the radio.
In the distance, I spy a giant white tent. Of course, we have to go check it out.
We never miss a chance to see what is under a big white (or any color for that matter) tent. It could be a carnival, a church festival-the good kind with games and rides-not snake handling or a giant tent sale.
As we get closer, I see that the tent is in the courtyard of a big stone building, a building that is fashioned to resemble, however loosely, a giant German castle or at least what an American architect who has never left the continental United States thinks a German castle looks like.
My hopes that the tent is some sort of cool store, preferably one dealing exclusively in shoes and purses or there's a 99% off sale, are immediately erased.
Since the faade is Germanic, it is doubtful that it is a shoe store, more likely it is a Christmas shop or a Brew Haus. Huh, if it is a Christmas shop perhaps we can get a discounted Kringle or Stollen.
Upon closer inspection, we see that the building isn't a castle at all, merely a restaurant impersonating a castle.
In all fairness, later I learned that the restaurant is a German restaurant with authentic Schnitzel.
I guess this means no Stollen for us, how disappointing.
Still, the munchkins are curious about the purpose of the tent. Rampant speculation abounds until I catch a glimpse of the banner clinging to the side of the tent.
It is advertising the upcoming Oktoberfest. Oh yes, Oktoberfest, the celebration of all things beer and Lederhosen.
If you grow up in a city like Milwaukee, a city that is built by the proverbial melting pot of immigrants; of which a disproportionate number were German, you are more then a little familiar with such things as Oktoberfest, polka bands and Lederhosen.
Oh well, Oktoberfest is interesting but certainly no carnival or mega shoe sale.
According to the sign, the date of the Oktoberfest is the end of September, not October.
Hmm, that seems a bit confusing, why call it Oktoberfest if it is in September.
As this had me more then a bit puzzled, once I returned home, I used the all mighty Google to find out more about Oktoberfest.
What do you know-it is traditional for Oktoberfest to start at the end of September.
Who knew-and to think a German restaurant in Wisconsin sparked this bit of learning.
God bless the internet, it prevented me from making an ass of myself complaining about Oktoberfest being in September.
Back to the subject at hand, while it may matter in Germany when Oktoberfest is celebrated it matters not one whit here in Wisconsin.
Be it January, August or October, we nosh on cheese and eat sausage with impunity. We wash it all down with cold lager every day of the year.
Although, calling it Oktoberfest gives our eating and drinking a sort of legitimacy. We are not eating fattening foods because we don't know any better; we are eating fattening foods to celebrate our heritage.
Actually, I was glad to learn that the Oktoberfest celebration was on time. I am very tired of the endless rush to the holidays.
Every year it seems that the holidays start earlier and earlier. With the economy in the pits, I imagine that retailers will begin their relentless pursuit of our Christmas money any time now. Frankly, I am amazed they didn't start sooner.
Just yesterday, I spied the Christmas creep. The stores are slowly edging their Christmas merchandise out onto the floor. Soon Santa and candy canes will take the place of the scarecrows and pumpkins.
Come November 1st don't even think about looking for something with a turkey on it, you won't find it.
I think Thanksgiving is now an auxiliary Christmas holiday. Retailers merely use Thanksgiving as the starting point on the frenzy that is Christmas shopping. Soon there won't be any actual Thanksgiving decorations, say good-bye to grim faced pilgrims and grinning turkeys it will be all reindeer and sugarplums.
This, of course, means that you will have to start shopping sooner perhaps, right after Oktoberfest.
Jennifer Flaten lives where the local delicacy is fried cheese, Wisconsin. She writes about family life, its amusing or not so amusing moments. "At least it's not another article on global warming," she says. Jennifer bakes a mean banana bread and admits an unusual attraction to balloon animals and cup cakes. Busy preparing for the zombie apocalypse, she stills finds time to write "As I See It," her witty, too often true column. "My urge to write," says Jennifer, "is driven by my love of cupcakes, with sprinkles on top. Who wouldn't write for cupcakes, with sprinkles," she wonders.
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