Famed for its beer, the Oktoberfest celebration is one of the largest festivals in the world, with annual attendance exceeding six million. In addition to the traditional dishes served each year, alcohol is an important part of the festival with 7.7 million gallons of beer sold at the 2013 Oktoberfest celebration. But how did the Oktoberfest festival begin? Let’s find out a little more about the origin of the Oktoberfest celebration.
The first Oktoberfest was a celebration of the wedding of Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen in October 1810. Citizens of Munich who had been invited to the party gathered in the fields (now called Theresienwiese meaning Therese’s meadow or Wiesn) in front of the city gates. They partied for five days from the 12th to the 17th of October with copious amounts of food, parades, music, and of course beer, the celebration then culminating in a horse race around the town. The success of the celebration leads to the annual repetition of the horse race as well as the other festivities, giving rise to the Oktoberfest tradition. In the 1811 repeat of the event, Bavaria’s Agricultural Show was started as well. Subsequently, carousel, swings, carnival booths, and bowling alleys were introduced in the fairground as the celebration expanded each year. Attendees were served wine, beer and other traditional delicacies including pretzels, lederhosen, and Schweinshaxe by vendors in tents.
The start date of Oktoberfest was moved to mid-September so that the warmer climate encouraged visitors to spend more time at the festival and allow for longer festive days. It opens with the traditional 12-gun salute and the tapping of the first set of Oktoberfest beer at 12 p.m. followed by the mayor of Munich proclaiming “It’s tapped”!
Today, a series of events take place at the festival including the grand entry of the Oktoberfest landlords and breweries, the procession of the costume and riflemen, and a concert at the “Wiesn”. While many of the original traditions remain the horse racing event has stopped in recent years.
Although Oktoberfest now runs for 16 to 18 days, it maintained its original location on Wiesn. But no matter the date it starts, the last weekend of Oktoberfest always falls in October, preserving the tradition of the original celebration as well as staying true to its name.
With the strict regulations in place, families can now enjoy the Oktoberfest festival with their kids. It is a fun activity for both young and old, it is not just about drinking beer as many think it is, but is more of a fair as well. There have also been great improvements in security and transportation for visitors at the original event in Munich, making the event even more enjoyable. The amusement parks and the Oide Wiesn provide visitors with historic rides, carousels, costumes, and tents fitting for all age groups. Giving them a true taste of the original festival. Since its inception, the celebration has been interrupted 24 times by wars and cholera outbreaks, despite these interruptions the festivals still go on.