Octoberfest

English: Dispersal of German Americans accordi...

Dispersal of German Americans according to the 2000 census – (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Maryland, Eastern shore

Maryland, Eastern shore (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My second husband Don, was German-American, his family from Maryland’s Eastern Shore. The Eastern Shore in Maryland was until recently, home to to a huge concentration of German American farmers, some of them descended from the Hessians who fought for the British in the American Revolution others from nineteenth century immigrants from Germany. Still others, like D’s dad migrated from the midwest, Nebraska in his case.

German-Americans maintained their cultural identity until the twentieth century, when Progressives  (Isolationists, Nativists) closed the German schools and demanded these people give up German and speak English. Although German culture was thoroughly suppressed following WWI,  many German words like heinie made it into the American lexicon.

During WWII when many of the German descent American men were overseas fighting Nazis, German prisoners captured by the Allies were sent to live and work on farms in Allied countries. German prisoners sent to Eastern Maryland and other areas in the States found it so hospitable, many of them did not want to be repatriated when the war ended.

After WWII, Don spent much time in occupied Germany serving with the US Army.  There he established acquaintances with West Germans working with NATO, some of whom had lived in America. Because they reminded him of home, he always enjoyed the festivities his German friends celebrated around this time of year. After he returned to the States, and during the few years I lived with him, we attended many local festivities where my children and I discovered the fun of Octoberfest, as celebrated by his family and other German descent Americans.

The autumn festivals in Maryland were gala events, involving much drinking of beer carried to tables in pitchers and slopped on people and floors by local German descent girls, farm girls happy to see an end to summer’s chores.

Octoberfest involved much eating, as well as drinking, and from these people I learned how to make many German origin foods, such as sauerkraut and bratwurst which I always cook at this time of year.

My family has German antecedents too, my great-grandmother Anna Mary migrated with her family to Chicago from Bavaria in the 1850s. Although my family Americanized rather quickly, I like to think some of them might have eaten German foods. In fact, I know they did, because Aunt Marge lived in Sheboygan Wisconsin, the Bratwurst capital of the world. When David and I visited her, we always had a bratwurst or two.

English: German Soldiers in the American Revol...

German Soldiers in the American Revolution (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

German population density in the United States...

German population density in the United States, 1872. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: The German-American Heritage Museum's...

The German-American Heritage Museum’s logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

10 thoughts on “Octoberfest

  1. Oh yes, we once munched on brats as we walked down the middle of the main street in the business section of Sheboygan. The city had an annual “Bratwurst Day” when vehicles were banned in the central area. Three-fourth of my grandparents and all my wife’s were German immigrants. Enjoyed this post, especially the insights about the Hessians and eastern Maryland. You included much I did not know.

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  2. My family came from Milwaukee. Miwaukee/Dutch was a language mother spoke….perhaps a pigin English. We ate basically German foods. High fat, high carbohydrates. Often our meals came from the Milwaukeep Settlement House Cookbook…the way to a man’s heart. I have about six editions, and they have the best baked apple on a pork chop recite you can find. 🙂 No beer tho. Martinis.

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