What is Oktoberfest? How did it start?
The Oktoberfest tradition actually began hundreds of years ago in 1810 when the citizens of Munich were invited to attend festivities on fields in front of the city gates in celebration of a royal wedding. Five days of festivities took place on the fields, named Theresienwiese (‘Theresa’s Meadow’) including parades, shooting displays, music and the main event, a traditional horse race – and the extravaganza proved so popular that the decision was made to repeat it every year. The world-famous beer and folk festival has been held virtually every year since then on those very same fields, with over six million visitors attending each year!
The annual spectacle became progressively bigger and more elaborate as different events and attractions were added. The number of makeshift beer stands multiplied and these were eventually replaced by beer halls in 1896 sponsored by the local breweries – much like the beer tents of today.
Whilst much has changed since its origins in the Middle Ages, much has stayed the same. It’s still a time to eat, drink and be merry, it’s still a folk festival and travelling funfair, it’s still held on the original fairground site affectionately called the ‘Wiesn’ by the locals and it’s still celebrated at the same time of year as the royal nuptials way back in 1810. Actually, that’s not quite true. The age-old schedule which used to culminate on the first Sunday in October was in fact changed to accommodate German Unity Day on 3rdOctober, and so this public holiday now marks the climax of the 16-18 day event.
Some other fun things to know about the Munich Oktoberfest:
- It’s only been cancelled a few times in its history, and 2019 will be the 185th staging of the event
- It brings around 450 million Euros to the city’s coffers each year
- The record amount of beer served was 7.7 million litres in 2011
- Traditional foods include charcoal-fired fish on a stick (Stekerlfisch), sausages (Wurstl), pretzels (Brezen), roast chicken (Hendl), roast pork (Schweinebraten) and decorated gingerbread hearts and sugar-glazed almonds for those with a sweet tooth
- Just six Munich breweries are permitted to serve beer at the festival, which is brewed according to the Bavarian Purity Requirements, decreed by Duke William IV way back in 1516 which allows only water, hops and barley to be used
- Beer is sold in one-litre mugs, with beer maids and waiters required to carry up to 10 of these at a time
- The beer at the Oktoberfest contains up to 6% alcohol and is darker and stronger than traditional beer
- In 2013, the lost and found office collected 1056 lost passports, 520 wallets, 320 mobile phones and a set of false teeth!
If you can’t get to Munich this year to raise your tankard and thank the newlyweds for getting the party started, you can always pop by our store or shop online and grab all the essentials you need to create your own Oktoberfest – Perth-style!