Wednesday, October 13, 2010


first Oktoberfest in 1810

   Many people have heard of Oktoberfest.  Some know it as a German celebration.  In fact, it is the largest and longest celebration in Germany.  In Germany, it is celebrated across the country.  However, many people don't know how Oktoberfest began.

Early Oktoberfest Beermaids
   Its origins have roots in Bavaria where it began in Munich.  Oktoberfest started on October 12, 1810 as a way to celebrate the marriage of Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese.  As was customary in those days royal marriage celebrations extended for several days.  On October 17, a horse race was held at the city gates in which the citizens of Munich were invited to watch.  The horse race proved to be a popular event with the citizens and it started a tradition of an annual celebration which included horse racing until 1938.

A German folk Band Member

Tapping of the first keg of Oktoberfest
   By 1811, Oktoberfest became a type of fall agricultural festival and by 1818 beer pubs and street performers added to the festivities.  By 1887, the traditional garb of lederhosen (leather britches) and dirndls (dress of southern Germany) became the thing to wear to the festival.  Various food became associated with the festival such as bratwurst and pretzels.  The celebration gradually spread throughout Germany and is now celebrated in many places throughout the world.
modern day Beermaid

   In Munich because of the more seasonable weather, Oktoberfest begins in mid-September and lasts 17 days.  It ends on the first Sunday of October.  However, Oktoberfest days can vary today by local. 

Horsedrawn beerwagon

   Although the horse race was eventually abandoned, many characteristics of the early Oktoberfest celebrations have been retained, if not expanded upon.  Munich's annual celebration is still held on the original sit, Theresienwiese ("Theresa's fields"), in front of the city gates.  The agricultural show continues to be a feature, though it is only held every third year now.  The tradition of beer and food stands, begun in 1818, continues today and is perhaps the most significantly developed aspect of Oktoberfest.

another beerwagon
   The modern celebration has replaced the small tents with giant brewery-sponsored beer halls that can hold up to 5,000 people apiece. 
One of the many beer tents

Oktoberfest Facts
  • In 1997, Oktoberfesters consumed more than 5 1/2 million liters of beer, about 45,000 liters of wine, and almost 165,000 liters of nonalcoholic beer.
  • The local name of Oktoberfest, "Wies'n", is derived from Theresienwiese, the name of the field on which the festival is held.
  • The festival halls in Munich can seat 94,000 people.
  • The beers that the Munich breweries produce specially for Oktoberfest contain 4.5 percent alcohol.
  • Cincinnati, Ohio,  which claims to hold the "largest authentic Oktoberfest" in the U.S., draws about 500,000 people to its celebration.

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