Most people here in the United States know Oktoberfest as the one weekend a year when you get to drink lots of German beer while wearing lederhosen or a dirndl. However, there is more to it than that and some of the true Oktoberfest followers understand the finer details of this popular event.
Oktoberfest all started in Munich and is now a 16 day celebration of beer that begins in September and ends on the first Sunday in October. The very first Oktoberfest took place when Crown Prince Ludwig married Princess Therese von Saxony-Hildurghausen on October 12, 1810 in Munich. All of the citizens of Bavaria were invited to the royal party and the tradition has continued every year since with the exception of wars and cholera epidemics briefly interrupting here and there. Even though the original (and very popular) horse races are no longer held, the agricultural show still takes place every three years which continues to boost the Bavarian agriculture.
Beer stands became a staple at these celebrations and as time went on other amusements were added such as swings and the famous carousel you see in so many Oktoberfest images. The old beer stands were eventually replaced with the giant beer tents and beer halls we know today.
It is estimated that over 6 million people attend the Munich Oktoberfest. Opening ceremonies is a fun tradition in and of itself. The festivities begin with a parade featuring those beautiful horse drawn brewer’s carts and oompah bands leading everyone to the Schottenhammel tent. It is here that the mayor has the honor of tapping the first keg. You will likely hear “O'zapft ist!” being shout out loud and proud immediately after the tapping which literally means “It is tapped”.
There are literally hundreds of Oktoberfest celebrations in the United States every year. While they are not the original, many are closely fashioned after the original and have become very authentic in nature. You can certainly expect to find great German food, German beer (bier), German polka music and folk dancing. You will also find many of the attendees wearing the traditional Bavarian festival dress, Trachten, which includes the leather lederhosen and dirndls most of us expect and hope to see. It only takes a little research to find a top rated Oktoberfest or German heritage festival in your area. While many are held simultaneously as the Munich celebration, most Oktoberfest festivals in the US are held at different times of the year to accommodate each regions climate. If you are willing to travel and up for a long road trip, you can keep yourself busy year round attending German heritage festivals across the country. Hey..now wouldn’t that be a great idea? I think I just added a new item on my bucket list.
Check out the list of heritage festivals Oktoberfest Depot attends each year.