Off the Beaten Path: Festive Fall

October 02, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

Now that we've turned the corner and entered another season marked by the change in store displays and inventory, if not the weather, I'm starting to receive more invitations (read: ads) to plan for and join in the fall festivities. Whether it's seeing the changing leaves, attending the county fair, whale watching, or the like, everything now seems geared towards getting in those last hurrahs before settling in for the long stretch marked mostly by indoor activities.

Over a decade into the new millineum, we still mark festivities set by our ancestors that coincide with or celebrate harvest time. Oktoberfest, Hallowe'en, Carnival, Thanksgiving, Benichon, Tet Trung Thu - worldwide, you can't throw a shoe without it landing in someone's autumn blowout. And since many begin and end according to a lunar cycle, there's no point in marking your Gregorian calendar from year to year. Even being ignorant of a festival's history isn't even necessarily an obstacle, you're generally guaranteed an opportunity for food, frolic, and gawking even if the goings-on are less than familiar. 

Southern California's oldest running annual Oktoberfest celebration is held at the Alpine Village where expats and Germanophiles can let their inner Bavarian out to play amongst the oom-pah-pah bands, Bier Hall, and night club revelers. Since Oktoberfest is essentially an observation of a wedding reception anniversary, it's not surprising that revelers are drawn by promises of plenty of drink, crazy dance moves, and at least one 'colorful family member'. 

Young Carnival masqueradersYoung Carnival masqueradersYoung masquers march in the Los Angeles Caricabela Carnival parade

I had always associated Carnival with the period shortly preceding Lent and made famous by masque culture-steeped destinations like Rio de Janiero, New Orleans, and Venice. In truth, Caribbean Carnival events take place year-round worldwide and are as varied as the islands represented. In Los Angeles, it's feted each fall in Caricabela "the largest regional Caribbean outdoor festival and carnival roadshow in Southern California". Sixteen years in, the Carnival's a welcome yearly attraction under the helm of Artistic Director Marie Kellier. While it seems like the neighborhood's best kept secret (I heard about it via a local farmer's market), the energy, artistry, and natal pride on display match what you would expect to see in the represented home countries.  

Teen dancing during the Caricabela Carnival paradeTeen dancing during the Caricabela Carnival paradeTeen dancing during the Caricabela Carnival parade

Luckily, October is a mild month in L.A. with little chance of weather upsetting the parade plans or festivities. All's family-friendly with a street fair atmosphere complete with beauty queens in convertibles and admirers waving tiny multicolored flags. 

Adult masquers perform along Caricabela Carnival parade route.Adult masquers perform along Caricabela Carnival parade route.Adult masquers perform along Caricabela Carnival parade route.

Then and now, preparing for feast days are months in the making even with whole communities pitching in. While the food ingredients and costume materials can now be bought - saving time and labor in cultivation and creation - the tradition still lives in the sharing of the festival history with family and newcomers and the camaraderie it instills. 

Something old is retained, adapted, and made new with each yearly observance of fall festivals. For all of our modernism, there's comfort and clarity in that.

 


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