It’s that time of year again:
In honor of the party heard ‘round the world, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to share five little-known facts about Oktoberfest, and how you can celebrate when traveling abroad.
It would only make sense right… that Oktoberfest would take place in the month of October. Perhaps. But that’s just not the case. This year, the festival began on Saturday, September 19, and will wrap up on October 4 when 12 riflemen will sound a salute on the steps of the Bavaria Statue.
Your shock is audible, we know. Many around the world have come to know Oktoberfest as an occasion to drink great German and Belgian beer, and a lot of it. But the truth is, it’s not a beer festival. Oktoberfest celebrates the wedding anniversary of Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig and his wife, Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen. The two were wed in 1810, and the event was commemorated with a public party — sans beer.
It wasn’t until nine years later that the horse races were replaced by beer vendors.
Since its inception, Oktoberfest has included a carnival, but that’s only grown larger and more of note in recent years. Adults and children alike will enjoy a Ferris wheel, roller coasters, games, and traditional Bavarian parades.
Midway scene not your style? There’s music in every alcohol tent, with brass bands that play a mix of Black Eyed Peas hits and traditional German Oompah classics; food — so much food; and a chance for festivalgoers to practice their bow and arrow skills in the annual crossbow competition.
The festival is far from a free-for-all. Oktoberfest drinking commences only once the master of ceremonies — the mayor Munich — says so. It is he who cracks open the first barrel of beer and proclaims, “O’ zapft is.” (That translates to, “It’s tapped.”
Oktoberfest has become such an important and popular Munich event not for pleasure, but necessity. The water supply in southern Bavaria was, until the 19th century, notorious for its poor quality; and for the sake of avoiding such ailments as cholera and the plague, residents and visitors chose the safer, tastier beer.