Oktoberfest-Kutscherdoesn’t exist, just by itself. There is Red Horse, but that beer may not be served at the Oktoberfest. Only beers brewed in Munich, as tradition dictates. But the Oktoberfest starts in September, why? Because the weather is still somewhat better then is what I know, as long as it ends in October, OK. Or passt scho, as Bavarians say. That’s OK is what it more or less means. No need to look further. Red October, or the October revolution, wasn’t really in October either. It was on October 25, 1917 in Russia and on November 7, 1917 – by the Gregorian calendar which most of Europe was using.

Reds turned Red October into Red November when they chose to switch to Gregorian in 1918. Greeks finally decided to go Gregorian in 1919 – for civil purposes. Christmas and Easter still differ for Russians and Greeks, this I know. Why should Orthodox bishops follow a calendar that was decreed by a Roman Catholic Pope? Gregory XIII, to be exact, way back in 1582, had reformed the Julian calendar, decreed by Julius Caesar in 46 B.C. – both being the Pontifex Maximus. These priests defined the calendar in ancient Rome, but sometimes misused that power for politics.

Weder-Weder and Seasons

Even Julius Caesar made the year of his third consulship 446 days long in the year of his reform. Being Pontifex Maximus and Consul was like being President and Supreme Court Chief Justice. Might be an idea for Duterte when CJ Castro retires. But even in Roman times, the additional days to adjust the calendar to the seasons (or political weder-weder) were done after February, like now. Except that February was the last month, and September – October – November – December were really still the seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth months, respectively. After Julius and Augustus.

Almost 16 hundred years later, the 365.25 days used to compute leap years every 4 years proved to be slightly inaccurate. Easter got colder and colder. 365.2425 days is inaccurate every 3000+ years. Pretty accurate though for a Catholic Church that still refused to believe Galileo – at least officially. But on the other hand accepted strong beer as a valid substitute for food during the Lenten season. There is the story that Bavarian monks sent beer all the way to Rome and it was no longer fresh when it arrived, so the Vatican approved it. In reality it is almost as strong as Filipino Red Horse.

Per centum

8% alcohol is what I have found for Red Horse, while the Lenten beers of Munich called Salvator, Maximator, Triumphator etc. have around 7.5%. Oktoberfest beer “only” has 6.4% – not inflation, alcohol percentage. Regular beer like Augustiner Helles has 5.2%, which looks like a little less. Unfortunately, whether we talk about alcohol percentage or inflation, small differences are big. Four half liter mugs of Augustiner Helles make you way less drunk than two liters of Augustiner in the Oktoberfest tent of the same name. Lenten Penance is two liters of Maximator – same brewery.

No October Horse is sacrificed to mark the end of the agricultural season during the Oktoberfest. That was in ancient Rome. There are brewery horses pulling carriages with beer barrels on them during the opening ceremony, but most “tents” are huge wooden pavillions nowadays with tanks and pipes for their beer. The Augustiner “tent” does still use 200 liter barrels though, traditionally. And still the Oktoberfest has a lot in common with other harvest and autumn festivals in Bavaria. Entire oxen roasted, with name and weight indicated, are most remiscent of sacrifice in one “tent”.

Sacrifice

Someone doubted whether one could roast such a large animal in one piece, wouldn’t it take days? After all, lechon takes around six hours if I remember correctly, turkey or goose like three hours. But I have seen that they cut off meat from the outside going inwards, much like with shawarma. Same with gyros or döner, the Greek and Turkish versions of Lebanese shawarma, respectively. Only Greek gyros is pork though, but ancient Greeks were known to sacrifice bulls etc. to Gods. Ancient Greek comedies made fun of the fact that most of the meat was grilled and eaten by people.

So before gyros, there was souvlaki – or similar. But I don’t think that the Greek attitude to sacrifice was imported to Bavaria by King Otto, first King of modern Greece, a Bavarian prince. The Greeks disliked him. Coach Otto Rehhagel was liked, as he helped the Greeks win the 2002 European Cup. Sometime afterwards the Euro crisis came, and Angela Merkel became a new hate figure in Greece. Somewhat like “Panot” aka President Aquino in the Philippines two years ago – for much less than the sacrifices – human and monetary, not animal – they have to endure today under “Lodi” Duterte.

Red Oktoberfest

never existed either, but there was a “Bavarian Soviet Republic” for a short while in Spring of 1919. The house of Wittelsbach, a truly old political dynasty, ruled Bavaria from 1180 until Nov. 7, 1918, when the Free State of Bavaria was declared. A right-wing nationalistic aristocrat killed its founder, a Social Democrat, on Feb. 21, 1919. The Social Democrats managed to get a government together by March 7, but it was so weak that by April, a Communist Republic was declared by somewhat crazy anarchists. A week later, Communists led by three Russian migrants loyal to Lenin took over.

There is a legacy of beer from that short-lived “republic”: the “Russnmaß” or Russian stein which mixes wheat beer (as opposed to beer from malt and hops) with sweet lemonade. Seems the Russn or “Russians” which the common people called all the Communists liked that sweet and sober mix. Didn’t help much. The democratic government had fled to Bamberg and got help from right-wing volunteer paramilitaries, the Freikorps, while the Communists quickly formed an own “Red Army”. Munich was reconquered by early May, democracy restored but true power was with the Right.

Extremists and democrats

Many of those in the Freikorps later became prominent Nazis (link) though some former members of the “Red Army” became Nazis also. Four years later, Hitler attempted a right-wing coup (link). Extremists from left and right clashed in the streets of the Weimar Republic, weakening democracy. Hitler himself got rid of most of the left wing of his Nazi party in the night of the Long Knives (link) in 1934. Non-extremist, meaning non-violent political parties did not stand a chance in those years, even if two became the major right-wing and left-wing democratic parties of postwar Germany.

Democracy is finally about taming our savage desire to hurt the other side, an agreement to deal with conflicts in a civilized, rule-based manner. Just like rule of law is about taming our desire to take revenge – or to just punish those we dislike for whatever reason. We can be very nasty inside. Especially when hungry. So it is better not to go hunting for Red October Horses to be sacrificed. Better sacrifice pigs, cows or oxen, eat them like Greeks or Bavarians, or the Ifugao during kanyaw. Drink Red Horse or Russian beermix. Lenten beer, yellowish Helles, or Cerveza Negra. Prosper!


Romans, Greeks, Filipinos, Bavarians, Russians. Pigs, cows, horses and oxen. Beer and festivals. Politics and calendars. Revolution and sacrifice. Inflation and drunkenness. Soccer and festivals. Greeks sticking to Roman calendars. Communists adopting Roman Catholic calendars. Bogeymen. Christian Popes adopting the title of a pagan priest of ancient Rome. Lodis. Octo = VIII, not X. Finally, just one horse at the Oktoberfest start carries the mascot of Munich, a young lady in a cape. Which lady will be on the Philippine October horse? Smiling, very short, or sharp-chinned? Who?

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 2 October 2018