Oktoberfest starts in late September, and with it comes images of a Lederhosen wearing, Beer guzzling, Pretzel eating Man, with his Lusty dirndl wearing Fraulein. This image is only partially true, and doesn’t tell the whole story. So, what IS Oktoberfest in Germany? And why is it celebrated? And who celebrates?
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What IS Oktoberfest in Germany?
It may sound odd, but not all Germans celebrate Oktoberfest. You see, Oktoberfest is a Bavarian Tradition. And just like not all Americans are Cowboys … not all Germans are Bavarians.
But since most everyone likes beer and pretzels, the world has embraced Oktoberfest. (The world has yet to embrace Lederhosen…. I’m taking this as a good sign that the world is mostly on the right track).
A little history first to put the celebration into perspective… In October of 1810, Crown Prince Ludwig married Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen. All Bavarians were invited to celebrate with Festivities (mostly horse racing) in the Theresenwiese (a meadow renamed for the event). It was so popular, that they celebrated again the next year! and the next…. and the next. (The powers that organize these things made the wise decision to move the event to September, to take advantage of better weather).…. Except for years of War or Cholera, Oktoberfest has been celebrated every year since then.
And it gets bigger every year!
The 16 day festival is THE largest in Germany…. over 6.5 million people come to celebrate in the Beer Tents and fair ground. The festivities open with 12 gun salute and the tapping of the first keg, “O’zapft is!” (it’s tapped!). There are parades, beer, costumes, beer, food, beer, music, beer, carnival rides and beer.
Astonishingly, in 2013 over 6 million liters of beer were served (I try to visualize that amount, and fail).What makes this even more exceptional, is that the only beer served is beer brewed within the city limits of Munich who follow the Reinheitsgebot rules (beer purity laws). Despite the free flowing beer (which isn’t really free…. a liter will set you back around 9 Euros), Oktoberfest is family friendly, and loaded with rides and amusements for children.
While it may seem fun or silly to buy an Oktoberfest COSTUME (ie. wench girl or polyester “lederhosen” guy). DON’T even THINK about wearing one to the real Oktoberfest Tents… in fact, you might want to reconsider putting those things on at any time (well, maybe Halloween). Just don’t. A real Dirndl or authentic Lederhosen may seem pricey, but they never go out of fashion, and can be worn for years (and passed down).
Oktoberfest in America
Here in America, we have taken the Oktoberfest idea and run with it. A quick search of our Events page will find a local Oktoberfest festival for you and your family to enjoy. Food, fun and dancing… the perfect way to celebrate an early fall afternoon! My family comes from the North and East… so, we are not Bavarians….but I will be enjoying my WeissWurst , Pretzel and Bier (actually, a Radler for me) at our local German Restaurant, the Speisekammer (and a few other places… the celebration does go on for a few weeks!)…. and I’m sure I will be doing some dancing!
Still want to Learn MORE About Oktoberfest?
Oktoberfest History, Oktoberfest Guides, Oktoberfest Recipes, Oktoberfest Songs, and even a Historical Map
Oktoberfest CookbookThe Ultimate Guide to Oktoberfest – Munich Germany Travel GuideMeet Me in Munich: A Beer Lover’s Guide to OktoberfestTraditional Bavarian Oktoberfest SongsD’ Wies’n und ihre Brauereien / The Wies’n and Its Breweries (Die Reihe Archivbilder)Munich’s Oktoberfest DVD1844 Old Historical Map Munich Oktoberfest Germany- Various Sizes Reprint
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