This past weekend, we celebrated one of my FAVORITE fall events with our family - Oktoberfest!
A handful of years ago, shortly after moving back to Buffalo (having been in Charlotte for 5 years and without the full 4-seasons experience), I asked my Dad if we could host a yearly chowder party. Is chowder a thing where you live? It's a thing here. Not the clam stuff, gross. Ours is all veggies and a meat or two, and it doesn't have a creamy base. We're getting off track here.
My original thought is that we'd bundle up, have a campfire outside, make a huge batch of chowder with our immediate family, drink hot chocolate and embrace fall. My Dad took my idea and ran with it! He decided to host a full-on Oktoberfest party at his house with a big guest list, all kinds of German food, heated tents outside to huddle up in, and - because he's a home-brewer - his own Oktoberfest brew.
It was such a huge hit, that it turned into an annual event, and now it's something that my family and I REALLY look forward to! Every year is slightly different - the weather can be unseasonably warm or cold or somewhere in between. The menu shifts a little bit each time. The overloaded dessert table has different surprises from year to year. But the staples remain - lots of yummy eating and time with friends and family.
Oktoberfest typically happens in my Dad's garage, which he sets up with tables, a tv, oompa music, and all kinds of treats. He also sets up tents with heaters for extra seating. The food table is long and overflowing, and he labels each of the dishes with its traditional German name.
I wish I made note of everything a little better, but it's such a busy party! My favorite things? Blaukraut (German Red Cabbage), Sauerbraten (German Pot Roast), and Spaetzle (Noodles). There's usually 2-3 different kinds of German Potato Salad, and potato pancakes (which he made in the form of a bake this year). He makes Bratwurst, too, plus hot dogs for the kids. My kids are always happy to eat a hot dog & noodles!
Every year I think I'll want seconds of everything because it's all SO GOOD, but I end up painfully stuffed. It's too yummy! Oh - and can't forget the big pretzels and cheese dip! My kids' favorite part.
Our party is a big one, but you can celebrate fall this way on a much smaller scale! You can even just make a Friday night at home of it! Check out my tips below for how to make it a special night SUPER simply!
Oktoberfest Family Fun Night At Home
+ Make some of the less adventurous German/Oktoberfest foods that your kids will eat! Spaetzle and hot dogs are my kids' favs (of course, hot dogs are supposed to be the kid version of Bratwurst, so if your kids are willing to eat brats, go for it!) Apple cider makes a great fall-time dinner drink that's about the same color as an oktoberfest beer!
+ Make apple strudel or german chocolate cake for dessert!
+ Play Topfschlagen, or "hit the pot". My Dad told me about this traditional German game - it is SUPER simple, and all you need is a pot, some treats or small prizes, a wooden spoon, and something to blindfold with. Even toddlers can play it! See how to play it HERE
+ Find some oompa music on YouTube or Pandora and let the kids go crazy! Dance parties and DJ-ing music is one of my kids' favorite things to do!
+ Watch a movie set in Germany - Disney's Snow White & Tangled were both set in Germany!
+ Get frozen soft pretzels for a movie snack (doesn't get much simpler!) and serve with or without cheese dip and/or mustard.
+ If you really want to go crazy, wear some suspenders and look the part! ;)
Once you celebrate Oktoberfest, you'll want to do it every year! Have fun!!!