When I heard we were going to be stationed in Germany, I was elated. Not only do they make excellent wine and beer, but they celebrate like none other. Oktoberfest is world renown, and throughout Germany, villages hold their Oktoberfests as well. I attended one with friends, thinking it would be packed with activities. But the “activities” were eating, drinking, singing, and chatting. It was the whole point.
In Germany, we split a duplex with our German landlords. Their garage was a bar with indoor seating. Their friends would gather, share stories, laugh, and talk into the wee hours of the morning, often with no phone in sight. It made me wonder how often I celebrated for no reason other than the enjoyment of it?
Work hard, play hard
Germans work hard – on their gardens, their cars, their careers. While driving through villages, I’d see gorgeous cultivated gardens and a sense of pride in their work. But what I didn’t notice in our area, was a sense of rush. For Germans, you do what you can, and when you stop, you’re done. The multi-tasking endless to-do list I prided myself on seemed to lose its importance in this light. For people all over the world, work will still be there later, but I realized it’s important to seize every opportunity to celebrate no matter how mundane.
Celebration as belonging
Weihnachtsmarkt, also known as German Christmas Markets, are just as beautiful in person as in the movies, if not more so. You would huddle up with friends, enjoying a treat and a glass of gluhwein (mulled wine) because that’s what you do. The purpose is in the meandering and rejuvenation of it. I looked forward to this every year, and I didn’t feel guilty about it. I didn’t weigh in my mind, do I deserve this? I was present with friends. The music, smells, and the conversation was food for my soul, and we all belonged.
The pleasure of a generous celebration is something I hope everyone has the opportunity to experience. It’s about life and being fully present. It taught me not to take myself so seriously and to allow more room for celebration in my day to day life, not just when I was “allowed it.” Oktoberfest may be one festival of many, but this way of celebrating will forever be a reminder to be present and joy-filled with those I love.