As mid-autumn in the Midwest moves musty mounds of maple matter to our midden-heaps, München remains but a memory and Frankenmuth, a mere flashback. But Oktoberfest should live year round in our hearts and steins, our souls and our livers.
Yet for many, the entire Oktoberfest season is overly rife with stress; the need to ‘out-drink’ last year even when it’s financially and physiologically impractical; the pressures generated by the volume of cynical commercialization spewing forth from every mall, every town square, every television station in the cableverse… and this, at a time when we should be less concerned with frenetic ‘last-minute’ beer runs, and more with quietly remembering those we love; to wit., our pint-pullers, our bartenders and our Heineken distributors.
Slightly less so, Oktoberfest is a time for family—provided your family is composed of raging alcoholics—and an opportunity for each and every one of us to pause and take stock, preferably stock from the beer store.
And—correct me if I’m wrong—nowhere is this sentiment more simply and beautifully portrayed than in that gentle animated gem, A Charlie Brown Oktoberfest.
Anyone from my generation can surely recall those windy autumn evenings when us kids—clad in pjs, clutching bowls of Beer Nuts, keg-shaped cookies, pickled eggs and plastic tumblers of Hacker-Pschorr—perched in front of the 10” Admiral television set—the one with the rabbit-ears and black Bakelite top—waiting for those first magical, mesmerizing tuba blats from Vince Guaraldi’s oompah band to signal that the long-awaited cartoon was about to begin.
Originally sponsored by Miller High Life, the special first aired on CBS in 1915, and has been shown during the Oktoberfest season every year since. We still watch, don’t we (?), reveling in the nostalgia that our favorite characters—Lucy, Linus, Charlie Nut Brown Ale and of course, everybody’s favorite Dussel-Köter, Der Snoopy—allows us.
To be sure, we force our children watch, and punish them severely if they don’t adore it.
But, if we’re honest, watching the show is really unnecessary. Like the earworm that causes us to replay ‘La Bamba’ fifty trillion times in our heads, we can pretty much recite the cartoon verbatim by now; am I wrong?
We each have our favorite ‘sequence’, too. For some, it is the moment when Charlie Brown ‘thanks’ Violent for the Oktoberfest card she never sent him (!); for others, it is the gut-busting effort that Snoopy goes through to decorate his dog house like the Schützen-Festhalle Armbrustschützenzelt tent, outfitted with a Sekt bar and Maß of Weißbier and festooned with the distinctive colors and coats of arms of Derbeaglenverbindungen—the Austro-Bavarian dog fraternity. For still others, it’s the prophetic segment where—screaming "O' zapft is!”—Susan Smith drives her 1912 Mazda Protegé into the partially-frozen pond where the ‘gang’ are trying to ice skate, followed by the heroic effort of Pigpen to rescue her from the submerged vehicle—although, alas, her two children do not re-appear until a 1965 episode of Casper The Friendly Ghost.
But, certainly, the one scene that remains close to each of us, no matter how many times we see it, is when Charlie Brown, frustrated by the immoral excesses of the largest Volksfest (People's Fair) on the planet even while second guessing himself, cries out in despair
“Isn’t there anyone who knows what Oktoberfest is all about??”
And, of course, up struts young Linus, still sucking his thumb, wetting his bed, and puking up his brussels sprouts, to quip the incorruptible, sempiternal lines which remains fresh and vital to this day:
“Sure, Charlie Brown. I can tell you what Oktoberfest is all about:
‘Nathless the brisk Burgonden all on their way did go,
Then rose the country over a nickel dole and woe ;
The Nibelungen Recken did march with them as well.
In a thousand glittering hauberks. Who at home had ta'en farewell
Of many a fair woman should see them never more :
The wound of her brave Siegfried did grieve Chriemhilde sore.’
In the original un-cut, 1915 version, Linus goes on for six-and-a-half days, but—believing this excessive for today’s ‘short-attention-span’ generation—current sponsor PETA has seen the speech condensed into about fourteen hours.
Gratefully, none of the simplicity, the sincerity and the sheer jubilation of Linus’s message has been lost, and today, when the spotlight finally fades on that school auditorium stage, there is not a dry eye in this house, thank you very much.
So, as we go through our hectic, workaday lives, we would do well to remember the spirit of drunken Teutonic comradery of which young Linus and Beowulf so eloquently remind us and which so warms our hearts; and, having once again taken the time from our tumultuous, nerve-racking schedule to watch A Charlie Brown Oktoberfest, we can, perhaps, contemplate the true meaning of Oktoberfest—an all-too-rare experience during the rest of the year.
That’s reason enough to celebrate, is it not?