Why does Oktoberfest start in September? What are the traditions associated with the festival in Germany? How to get to Oktoberfest and what events of the festival are definitely worth visiting? We will tell you about this and more today.

In the capital of the glorious Bavarian capital, Oktoberfest, a festival of beer and joy, is in full swing. Strange, isn’t it, September is not over yet, and the festival is called October. However, with Germans, as we know, everything is logical, including holidays.

What kind of festival?

Who cares if it’s October or September! One word: fall! Traditionally, Oktoberfest starts in the 20s of September and takes over a maximum of one week from October.

But that hasn’t always been the case. October is in the name, as the very first festival was held on October 12, 1810 at the wedding of Crown Prince Ludwig (future King Ludwig I) and Princess Theresa of Saxony-Hildburghausen. Hence, incidentally, the name of the meadow on which the tents have been spread for centuries – Theresienwiese. We’ve taken care of Oktober!

But what is a fest? It is commonly believed (and any dictionary will confirm this) that das Fest is a holiday. But we remember that the German language is variegated and multifaceted. Fest is not just a celebration, but a feast to which everyone is invited! Different regions of Germany hold such events, also called Volksfeste, which means folk festivals.

A classic Oktoberfest is a place where there are not only tents with stalls and beer, but also sausage stands, souvenir shops, rides and other entertainment.

Who do we have to thank for the appearance of Oktoberfest?

Well, first of all, Crown Prince Ludwig and his bride deserve a thank you. In addition to the wedding itself, the future Louis I had planned to invite many guests, feed them, arrange a parade, and hold a stylized knight’s tournament. The banker and cavalry major Andreas von Dell’Armi actively assisted him in carrying out these plans. It was he who developed the monarch’s idea and brought it to life. And it was he who chose the meadows between the new hospital and the village of Sendling, which were named after the bride, as the venue for the tournament.

Why did Oktoberfest become a tradition?

Originally, beer did not flow at Oktoberfest. But nevertheless, the festival was held almost every year. Why? The kings of Bavaria were quick to point out that such events brought people together, were enjoyable and generally had a very positive impact on the atmosphere in the city. If, for example, the common people were not allowed to attend the royal wedding, the following year Maximilian I of Bavaria invited the peasants. All this instilled in the Bavarians a sense of collective unity, which they are proud of to this day.

Why is the festival held in early autumn?

Traditionally, this was due to weather conditions. The October celebrations were moved to September. The last weeks of September and the first week of October according to the calendar usually coincide with the Indian summer. During this time there is warm, sunny weather and the harvest has been or is being harvested. Good weather attracts more visitors.

What kind of parade starts Oktoberfest?

The innkeepers’ parade or Wiesnwirte (beer tent hosts) originated in 1879, and since 1887 their magnificent festive procession from the city center to the Theresienwiese, which at that time was the outskirts of the city, has been organized. Everything was in full swing: horses and donkeys pulled barrels of beer, music was played, everything was decorated with flowers and garlands. All in all, a celebration!

Why does the parade end at the Schottenhamel tent and what happens there?
Since 1867, the Schottenhamel has been organizing a small brewery at Oktoberfest. The brewery itself is considered one of the oldest in Munich. These days, the Schottenhamel tent usually hosts the grand opening of the festival. The city’s mayor must uncork the symbolic first keg of beer, while striking as few blows as possible. It’s a sport! The cask is uncorked by hammering in a special tap, from which the beer then flows in a river! After opening the keg, he says “O’zapft is!” (“Uncorked”), allowing the host to pour the beer.

The right to drink the first Beer is currently held by the Bavarian Prime Minister. It is he who takes the very first sip of beer.

What else is worth seeing at Oktoberfest?

In addition to the beer tent host parade and the beer keg opening ceremony at the Schottenhamel tent, the costume parade is a must-see. It first took place, again at the wedding celebration of Ludwig I. and Princess Therese. Annual parade became an annual event since 1950. About 8,000 people dressed in traditional Bavarian costumes walk from Maximileaneum to the Theresienwiese Meadow (which is about 7 kilometers). Officials, various unions and honorary representatives from other countries take part in the procession. As a rule, you can count about 40 dressed up harnesses.

How did beer appear at the festival?

Until 1851 there was no beer there, you could only drink it in the neighborhood of Sendling, but never on the meadow. The first beer shop on the Theresienwiese was the shop of Josef Hermann. Then in 1867, the enterprising Michael Schottenhamel opened the “Oktoberfest-Restaurant” at the festival, which attracted many visitors. Thus began a beer tradition. Today the brewery not only has to get visitors drunk on various beers, but also to entertain them.

What kind of beer is allowed at the festival?

Contrary to popular belief, Oktoberfest is not a German beer festival. It’s a festival of Bavarian beer, or rather even Munich beer, and it’s not customary to confuse the two! The great and terrible Reinheitsgebot (beer purity law), by the way, doesn’t apply to German breweries either…only to Bavarian ones! And Bavaria only became part of Germany in 1871. That’s why there are still places where Bavarians aren’t considered Germans, and Bavarians themselves don’t insist too much and hold traditional festivals.

Only Bavarian beers strictly complying with the Pure Beer Act are allowed at the festival. Plus, special festival beers are also brewed at Oktoberfest.

What is the Purity Beer Law?

The Reinheitsgebot was initiated by Duke Wilhelm IV of Bavaria in 1516. Brewers often added poisonous herbs (such as belladonna or belena) to keep the beer from spoiling. Without refrigeration, the beer soured quickly.

The Purity Beer Law introduced the basic ingredients that were allowed in brewing beer, brewing times, and even the price. According to the original text of the document, only water, barley, and hops could be used to make beer.

Why is a special beer brewed for Oktoberfest? Isn’t regular beer enough?

Special thanks go to Michael Schottenhamel who, in 1872, poured a special March beer for the festival. The enterprising brewer had a point: March beer was strong (6% alcohol instead of 5%) and stayed on longer while the merry Bavarian folk enjoyed the fresh, tart flavor. It was a sensation! At the next festival other brewers also brought special March beers.

What, besides beer, attracts visitors?

Traditionally, every brewer organized some kind of entertainment at his restaurant. According to the laws of marketing, this attracted more visitors. In the 19th century there was also a chain carousel. Visitors were entertained by entertainers, a wax room, and a flea circus. Engineering innovations, such as electric lighting, also became a point of interest to the public.

Today, the oldest attraction in the meadow is the Kalb family chain carousel. It was installed in 1919 and represents the third generation of the Oktoberfest chain carousel. Except for a few details, it is still preserved in its original form. The newest attraction is the Rocket Tower.

Who is on display at the beer festival?

You won’t believe it, every year the breweries literally fight for a spot in the meadow. Traditionally, only the best breweries can claim the right to participate. Every year, just before Oktoberfest, breweries apply for participation, and hope that a place will become available for them “under the tent”. For some participants, getting to Oktoberfest takes up to 20 years.

In addition, participation is not cheap. For example, just the installation and dismantling of the tent Hacker is valued at about 2 million euros, and that without taking into account staff salaries. Not every brewery has such sums of money at its disposal.

How is the beer served?

In Bavaria, it is customary to drink beer by the Mass (Mass = 1 liter). There are special control services that check the serving of beer. For example, pouring less than 0.9 liter can get a hefty fine, it is believed that the underflow of beer – additional profits brewery.

In actual Oktoberfest the weight can be from 0.9 liters to 1 liter (according to statistics only one in five mugs of beer is poured to a liter, so maybe you are so lucky).

What to wear?

Traditionally in the Bavarian national costume. You will not stand out in it for sure. What does it consist of?

For men: white or white plaid shirt, leather pants (Lederhosen) – the most important accessory. If you could not buy leather pants, wear brown, black or green elongated shorts. Next come the suspenders. On the feet – gaiters or socks and traditional leather boots (Haferlschuh) or any other leather boots.

For women: a blouse with ruffles (Tracht) or any white blouse with lantern sleeves and no buttons. Over the blouse is worn Dirndl – a traditional fitted dress with a wide skirt. If the Dirndl is too expensive, you can wear just the skirt separately. The belt is tied with a bow on the side. On the legs stockings or gaiters and shoes on a small stable heel.

How to get there?

Contrary to popular belief, you can’t just walk into Oktoberfest! There are no seats – they are sold out in advance. The reservation, we are talking about the seats in the tents. The feast itself is organized so that the meadow is stacked with beer tents, to which are attached beer yards (that is, open-air seats).

Tickets to the awnings are sold out in a matter of days, you can get into the beer patio by standing in line, and the Theresienwiese is completely free. Please note that beer is only served at the breweries, only sausages and juice or water can be bought on the meadow itself.

Oktoberfest Lexikon – Oktoberfest vocabulary

Die Wiese – on the meadow
Das Fest – festival
Das Volksfest – folk festival
Der Altweibersommer – Indian summer
Der Wiesnwirt – beer tent keeper
Das Fass – barrel
Das Zelt – tent, awning.
Die Mass – weight (1 liter)
Das Reinheitsgebot – beer purity law.
Das Wiesnbier – a special beer for Oktoberfest
Der Kettenflieger – a chain carousel
Aaaussccchenken – to serve on tap (about drinks)
“O’zapft is!” – Uncorked!
Der Fassanstich – opening of the first keg


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