While the earth basks in autumnal colors after September’s nature show, October, the astrological month of the scorpion, calmly sets in, almost unnoticed it seems. In a pensive mood energized by the sun and colorfully blanketing onset of autumn, the earth quietly prepares for a cycle of cool weather and light rains from the heat of summer.
October heralds such state of nature with festivities as the joyful riots of Oktoberfest, when beer flows across the terrains of Munich, Germany and elsewhere. The October festival in Munich started in 1800’s when Joseph Maximilian of Bavarian married Princess Theresa of Saxony. To commemorate the marriage, he called a certain place “Theresienurese”, or “Therese’s meadow” to celebrate his wedding with horse races. Horse racing however proved to be uninteresting to local Germans and made the race tracks instead, a happy gathering point for beer drinkers and rowdy celebrations. Beer drinking and raucous events became such big hits that the usual weddings and horse races were never again seen. Now on its 185th year, Oktoberfest has been celebrated every year since that year interrupted only by wars and a cholera epidemic. A special brew, stronger than usual is prepared for “Oktoberfest”, with other beer brands from all over the world brought to Munich for the affair. Early morning parades, with large decorated horses and colorfully costumed ladies and escorts riding floats, ceremoniously open the event as the Mayor hammers on the bent bronze spout of a beer keg with wooden hammer to declare the festival open, careful not to spill any of the brew to gain respect of the crowd and avoid ridicule.
Wooden mega tents are set up, and about 70,000 seats are sold to local and foreign tourists and visitors, while local breweries vie for the beer hall to sell their beer. Shapely waitresses, while distributing the beer in mugs, fight off over anxious advances of beer drinkers, half of them drunk. Young men and students take their dates on daredevil jet rides on cars, showing off reckless teenage bravado. Songs and dances with beer mugs on hand enliven pubs and beer halls as in the classic movie setting of Mario Lanza, “The Student Prince.” A Flea circus festival is held, where fleas are trained to draw small toy carriages and dance, and to basically stay in line and not jump off. Another festival featuring strength is “Hau den Lucas” where, like in early days similar to splitting wood, the aim was to hit a bell placed at the top of vertical tracks and elicit the ringing of a bell. Muscles are not pre-requisite, as muscles against a slender strong fellow is not always guarantee of a win. About 7 million folks a year drink about 500,000 pitchers of beer and eat huge amounts of fried chicken, grilled venison from deer, fish or beef from about 700 cows. From Boston to Cincinnati to Seattle to Oklahoma, bands, parades, games, and more beer is consumed during the popular German-American Oktoberfest festivals in the US For the Germans, not all is fun and games, as they also celebrate Tag de Einhert in October to commemorate the historic 1990 reunification of East and West Germany, when one day in October the Berlin wall suddenly just crumbled.
In Austria, the Huamfahrerfest is celebrated, where even cows are dressed in elaborate costumes and brought to town to parade, while in India, where the cow is considered sacred, Sonepur Fair where Asia’s biggest cattle fair is held on the banks of Ganges river, innocent eyed cattles are decorated with flowers. At the Puskar fair near Apres, pilgrims and tourists bathe on the holy water of Pushkar lake and on Kojagiri, a special night, saffron flavored sweet milk from many cows is shared with friends. At the Navames Purnina, on a full moon in October, new harvested rice is offered to God. In one of the more beautiful of festivals, the Diwali, a festival of lights, home-made sweets are distributed, while thousands of lamps are lighted in homes, with doorways decorated with Torans, garlands made of mango leaves and marigold blossoms. Rangolis or designs on floors are drawn with colored powder. The Goddess of wealth is evoked or called upon as fireworks, song and dance festivities form part of the gala. For the Sikh faith, the birth of Guru Nanal in October, their first guru or wise teacher, is celebrated in Guru Purab. Langars or community feasts are organized when people of all castes or social classes sit and sing hymns together, an unusual gathering.
In Egypt, similar Abo Simbal light festivities are held. Under shadows of the great Pharaohs Zoser, Cheops, Chipren, Tutankhamen, Rameses II, King Tut and other historical Egyptian rulers, and where giant mummified animals are buried with the same pomp as pharaohs, the festival work bring people from many villages to gather in celebration with thousands of lights in homes culminating in a mask ball. In Morocco, in Marrakesh at the Djemas el Fona, an assortment of weirdos gather as they put excellent cuisine of food at the local market, although many think Morocco’s staple food is bland without chicken, beef or lamb. Morocco in Algeria is the oldest imperial city and has about 10,000 tiny streets and alleys. In Brazil, during the Cirio de Nazare festival in October, when goods, products, farm crops and fruits are set up in tables at country fairs, candles light up streets and thoroughfares and mark processions in rituals. In China, Chong Yang is observed as memorial day for departed family and friends. In Vietnam, annual Trung Nguyen or Feast of Hungry Souls is a tradition that dates back ages. In Japan at Kyoto, every October Jidai Matsuri is a procession of historical costumes that dates back to the first emperor.
Music and the arts are not forgotten in festivals of October. In Chicago, birthplace of jazz, the oldest film festival of children is held. At Half Moon Bay Art and Pumpkin festival, the Shakespeare festival at Burns amphitheater honoring the literary legend are held in Orinda, California. The international Celtic film festival and Jersey festival acclaim international songs from around the world, while the Bond Classic festival keeps abreast and honor the classics. In Korea, the Paekche cultural festival relives Korean culture and history. Meanwhile in Ireland, the Cork jazz festival is performed by jazz’s best musicians. Towards the end of October, US prepares for Halloween, while the Jewish communities celebrate Yum Kippur festival as a period of atonement for sins committed in the past years. In Mexico, the Michoacan people on the last day of October mark Dia de los Muertos, when folks flock to the cemetery to await homecoming of the spirit of the dead.
In the Philippines, where Blessed Mary is well-loved, October is the month of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, when Her feast day is observed, with praying of the Holy Rosary by devotees and their families in many churches. In Manila and Quezon City, La Naval processions and church services gather the faithful in thanksgiving to the defense of Manila bay from Dutch naval invaders in the last century. In rural countrysides, farmers, young men and women quietly work on rice fields, bent to harvest golden rice grains, while some rake the rice grains to patches of golden carpets along cemented rural highways with hopes that wheels of passing cars and buses will help grind off the husk from the grain. In the evenings, farmer folks gather to quietly enjoy the golden harvests.
(Eds Note: Writer is married to Salvador T. Duque, M.D. Chancellor, Lyceum-Northwestern University, Pres. Assn. Priv. Schools Colls., Univs—Region I)
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