Oktoberfest is a sixteen-day festival held each year in Munich, Germany during late September (and running to early October). It is one of the most famous events in Germany and the world's largest fair, with some six million people attending every year, and is an enjoyable event with an important part of Bavarian culture. Other cities across the world also hold Oktoberfest celebrations, modeled after the Munich event.
The Munich Oktoberfest, traditionally, takes place during the sixteen days up to and including the first Sunday in October. In 1994, the schedule was modified in response to German reunification so that if the first Sunday in October falls on the 1st or 2nd, then the festival will go on until October 3 (German Unity Day). Thus, the festival is now 17 days when the 1st Sunday is October 2 and 18 days when it is October 1. The festival is held on an area named the Theresienwiese (field, or meadow, of Therese), often called d’ Wiesn for short.
Visitors also eat huge amounts of food, most of it traditional hearty fare such as Hendl (chicken), Schweinsbraten (roast pork), Haxn (knuckle of pork), Steckerlfisch (grilled fish on a stick), Würstel (sausages) along with Brez'n (Pretzel), Knödeln (potato or bread dumplings), Käsespätzle (cheese noodles), Reiberdatschi (potato pancakes), Sauerkraut or Blaukraut (red cabbage) along with such Bavarian delicacies as Obatzda (a fatty, spiced cheese-butter concoction) and Weisswurst (a white sausage).
The original "Oktoberfest" occurred in Munich, on October 18, 1810: For the commemoration of their marriage, Crown Prince Ludwig (later King Ludwig I) and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen (namesake of the Theresienwiese festival grounds) organized a great horse race (the marriage took place on October 12; the horse race on October 17 — therefore, there are different dates named as being the first Oktoberfest).
First hundred years
In the year 1812, the Oktoberfest was cancelled since Bavaria was involved in the Napoleonic war. In 1816, carnival booths appeared. The main prizes were silver, porcelain, and jewelery. In 1819, the founding citizens of Munich assumed responsibility over festival management. It was agreed that the Oktoberfest would be celebrated each and every year without exception. Later, it was lengthened and the date pushed forward, the reason being that the end of September in Bavaria often has very good weather. The high temperature in the first week of Oktoberfest nears 19°C which stimulates the thirst of the visitors. However, today the last week of Oktoberfest is still in October.
To honour the marriage of King Ludwig I and Therese of Bavaria, a parade took place for the first time in 1835. Since 1850, this has become a yearly event and an important component of the Oktoberfest. 8,000 people — mostly from Bavaria — in traditional costumes walk from Maximilian Street, through the centre of Munich, to the Oktoberfest. The march is led by the Münchner Kindl.
Since 1850, the statue of Bavaria has watched the Oktoberfest. This worldly Bavarian patron was first sketched by Leo von Klenze in a classic style and Ludwig Michael Schwanthaler romanticised and "Germanised" the draft; it was constructed by Johann Baptist Stiglmaier and Ferdinand von Miller.
In 1853, the Bavarian Ruhmeshalle was finished. In 1854, 3,000 residents of Munich succumbed to an epidemic of cholera, so the festival was cancelled. Also, in the year 1866, there was no Oktoberfest as Bavaria fought in the Austro-Prussian War. In 1870, the Franco-Prussian war was the reason for cancellation of the festival. In 1873, the festival was once more cancelled due to a cholera epidemic. In 1880, the electric light illuminated over 400 booths and tents. In 1881, booths selling bratwursts opened. Beer was first served in glass mugs in 1892.
At the end of the 19th century, a re-organization took place. Until then, there were games of skittles, large dance floors, and trees for climbing in the beer booths. They wanted more room for guests and musicians. The booths became beer halls.
In 1887, the Entry of the Oktoberfest Staff and Breweries took place for the first time. This event showcases the splendidly decorated horse teams of the breweries and the bands that play in the festival tents. This event always takes place on the first Saturday of the Oktoberfest and symbolises the official prelude to the Oktoberfest celebration
In the year 1910, Oktoberfest celebrated its 100th birthday. 120,000 litres of beer were poured. In 1913, the Bräurosl was founded, which was the largest Oktoberfest beer tent of all time, with room for about 12,000 guests (today, the biggest tent is the Hofbräu-Festhalle, which holds 10,000).
From 1914 to 1918, World War I prevented the celebration of Oktoberfest. In 1919 and 1920, the two years after the war, Munich celebrated only an "Autumn Fest." In 1923 and 1924, the Oktoberfest was not held due to inflation.
In 1933, the Bavarian white and blue flag was replaced with the standard swastika flag. From 1939 to 1945, due to World War II, no Oktoberfest took place. From 1946 to 1948, after the war, Munich once again celebrated only the "Autumn Fest." The sale of proper Oktoberfest beer was not permitted; the guests had to make do with beer that had an alcohol content under 2%.
Since its beginnings the Oktoberfest has thus been cancelled 24 times due to war, disease and other emergencies.
Since 1950, there has been a traditional festival opening: A twelve gun salute and the tapping of the first keg of Oktoberfest beer at 12:00 by the incumbent Mayor of Munich with the cry "O'zapft is!" ("It's tapped!" in the Austro-Bavarian dialect) opens the Oktoberfest. The first mayor to tap the keg was Thomas Wimmer.
By 1960, the Oktoberfest had turned into an enormous world-famous festival. After this foreigners began to picture Germans as wearing the Sennerhut, Lederhosen, and the girls in Dirndl. Horse races ended in 1960.
There are many problems every year with young people, who overestimate their ability to handle large amounts of alcohol. Many pass out due to drunkenness. These especially drunk patrons are often called "Bierleichen" (German for "beer corpses"). They are brought by staff to a medical tent where drunks as well as sick people are treated.
To keep the Oktoberfest, and especially the beer tents, friendly for older people and families, the concept of the "quiet Oktoberfest" was developed in 2005. Until 6:00 PM, the tents only play quiet music, for example traditional wind music. Only after that will Schlager and pop music be played, which has led to more violence in earlier years. The music played in the afternoon is limited to 85 decibels. With these measures, the organizers of the Oktoberfest hope to curb the over-the-top party mentality and preserve the traditional beer tent atmosphere.
Since 2005 the last traveling Enterprise ride of Germany - called Mondlift - is back on the Oktoberfest.
Starting in 2008, a new Bavarian law banning smoking in all enclosed spaces that are open to the public will be in place at the Oktoberfest. This will mean a complete smoking ban inside the tents. However, after heavy losses in the 2008 local elections, the state's ruling party wants to grant special exemptions to beer tents and small pubs. In 2008, the organisers used a special exemption in 2008 for temporary structures so smoking was permitted in the tents although the sale of tobacco was not.
Facts and data
The Oktoberfest is known as the Largest Volksfest (People's Fair) in the World. In 1999 there were six and a half million visitors to the 42 hectare Theresienwiese. 72% of the people are from Bavaria. 15% of visitors come from foreign countries like the surrounding EU-countries and other non-European countries including the United States, Canada, India, Japan, Brazil and Australia.
Besides the Oktoberfest, there are other public festivals that take place at the same location, in April/May: The Munich Frühlingsfest (Spring Festival) and Winter Tollwood in December with 650,000 visitors.
After the Oktoberfest the next people fairs in size in Germany are the Cranger Kirmes in Herne (Wanne-Eickel) (the largest fair in Northrhine-Westphalia) with 4.7 million visitors, the Rheinkirmes in Düsseldorf (called Largest Fair on the Rhine) and the Freimarkt in Bremen (the oldest fair in Germany, held since 1035, and the biggest fair in Northern Germany) with about 4 million visitors per year each, followed by the Cannstatter Volksfest in Stuttgart with about 3 million visitors each year and the "Schützenfest Hannover", the world's largest marksmen's Fun Fair in Hanover with about 2 million visitors per year.