When you hear someone say Oktoberfest it’s probably huge steins full of beer, Dirndl or Lederhosen along with loud and merry chanting that comes to mind- and accurately so. But how did the largest festival in the world come to be?
The tradition dates back to 1810, when the Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig’s marriage to Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen was celebrated. The citizens of Munich were invited to attend the festivities held on the fields in front of the city gates to celebrate the happy royal event. The fields were named Theresienwiese (“Theresa’s Fields”) to honour the Crown Princess, which has since been abbreviated by the locals to Wiesn.
The decision to repeat the festivities the following year, and subsequent years after, gave rise to the tradition of Oktoberfest. In 1818, the first carousel and two swings were set up. Visitors were able to quench their thirst at small beer stands, which grew rapidly in number, evolving quickly into the Oktoberfest we know and love today.
182nd Oktoberfest in 2015
The 16-day long beer festival, held annually in the Munich Theresienwiese fairgrounds, is complete with a fun fair (notwithstanding the numerous concurrent Oktoberfest versions celebrated nationwide). Although the original Oktoberfest in 1810 took place in mid-October, the festival has been moved earlier over the years to take advantage of the warmer weather. The Oktoberfest traditionally starts in the third weekend in September and ends the first sunday of October.
The main attraction of the Oktoberfest are the beer tents, wherein visitors consume over 7 million litres of beer during the festival in Munich alone. But it’s not all about the beer tents- the festival is surrounded by rides, roller coasters, games and a variety of food stalls to try out Hendl (roast chicken), Schweinebraten (roast pork), Steckerlfisch (roasted fish on a stick), Brezen (pretzels), Reiberdatschi (potato pancakes) and Weiβwurst (white veal sausage).
For more information about Hamburg’s local Oktoberfest events, see here.