The origin of Oktoberfest can be traced back to a horse race held during the marriage celebration of King Ludwig I and Princess Therese.
This race was organized in an open area called Theresienwiese, which later became the place for the annual Oktoberfest.
As a seasoned Oktoberfest campaigner, I’ve had a deep interest in the event’s origins for some time. So that’s what we are going to explore in this article. Prost 🍻!
🎡 Origins of Oktoberfest
Oktoberfest is an annual festival celebrated in Munich, the capital of the German state of Bavaria. The festival has deep roots in the region’s culture and history, with the first Oktoberfest held in 1810.
To fully understand how Oktoberfest started, it’s helpful to know what Oktoberfest is.
Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen, a member of the German nobility, played a key role in the establishment of the festival.
Her wedding to Crown Prince Ludwig (later King Ludwig I) was the event that sparked the creation of Oktoberfest.
Wedding of King Ludwig and Princess Therese
The royal wedding took place on October 12, 1810. Bavarian royalty invited citizens to join in the festivities, which included the aforementioned horse race, along with various other entertainment and activities.
Named after Princess Therese, Theresienwiese (“Therese’s Green”) is a large open space in Munich where Oktoberfest has taken place since its inception. Over time, it has become synonymous with the festival itself.
The first Oktoberfest was a five-day long event in October 1810, ending with that historic horse race in Theresienwiese. The event’s success led to the decision to celebrate it annually.
In 1811, the first “official” annual Oktoberfest took place, featuring an added agricultural fair. Since then, the festival has grown and evolved, becoming the world’s largest folk festival.
19th Century Changes
Throughout the 19th century, Oktoberfest saw significant transformations. Booths serving food and drink were introduced, including the first appearance of beer in 1818.
By 1819, officials in Munich took over the festival’s management, laying the foundation for the modern Oktoberfest traditions.
🍻 The Modern Festival
Today’s Oktoberfest has evolved into a massive celebration of beer, food, and traditional Bavarian culture.
With over six million attendees from around the world, it’s the largest Volksfest, featuring both a beer festival and a travelling carnival. The event typically runs from mid- or late-September until the first Sunday in October.
Beer is, of course, the main attraction. The tradition of serving lagers at Oktoberfest can be traced back to the start of the celebration. However, it is more than just “a beer festival”.
Oktoberfest showcases Munich’s world-renowned breweries. Beers served at the event must adhere to strict quality standards and can only come from six select Munich breweries.
Thirsty attendees savour their brews in massive one-litre mugs known as Maß or mass. The beers tend to be quite strong, with Oktoberfest beer boasting a higher alcohol content than average.
Other rules of Oktoberfest have also developed since Oktoberfest started, reflecting the customs and values of this event.
Fashion also plays a significant role in the festivities. Traditional Bavarian attire is worn by many visitors, including dirndl dresses for the ladies and lederhosen pants for the gents. These outfits add a touch of authenticity, giving attendees a taste of the rich culture on display.
Oktoberfest isn’t all about beer and clothing, though. A grand parade, known as the “Oktoberfest Costume and Riflemen’s Parade,” occurs annually.
It features over 7,000 participants dressed in traditional attire, marching through the streets of Munich accompanied by music bands and decorated floats.
Entertainment at Oktoberfest goes beyond parades. Attendees can also enjoy a myriad of amusement rides and games, making it a family-friendly event.
Thrill-seekers can hop on roller coasters and Ferris wheels or head to the carnival stands for archery, ring toss, and other fun activities.
No festival is complete without food, and Oktoberfest doesn’t disappoint. There’s a wide variety of tasty treats to satisfy hungry revellers.
Classic German dishes like bratwurst sausages are widely popular, and let’s not forget the famous Bavarian pretzels. These giant, twisted, and salted dough snacks are perfect for soaking up all that beer.
🌯 The Final Wrap
All in all, what Oktoberfest represents is a truly magical combination of beer, traditional attire, parades, entertainment, and mouth-watering delicacies.
It’s the ultimate celebration of Bavarian culture, making Munich the place to be each year as the event unfolds.