Known for beer, pretzels and bratwurst, Oktoberfest is a German celebration that appeals to the masses. From wearing gingerbread hearts to playing games like Hammerschlagen, Oktoberfest provides a rich history of tradition.
To celebrate in the festivities, many local areas plan events for the occasion over the span of 10 to 12 days. You can also plan a intimate gathering with friends and family for a dinner party. Food and drink are essential with Oktoberfest, so numerous ideas can be created for your menu. Bring in bits of tradition with games, clothing or stories. It may end up being a special event celebrated annually in your own home.
History of Oktoberfest
The Oktoberfest tradition started in 1810 to celebrate the October 12th marriage of Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig to the Saxon-Hildburghausen Princess Therese. The citizens of Munich were invited to join in the festivities which were held over five days on the fields in front of the city gates. The main event of the original Oktoberfest was a horse race.
Anniversary celebrations were held annually thereafter that eventually became larger and more elaborate. An agricultural show was added during the second year. In 1818, a carousel and two swings were set up for the revelers. Such amusements were few in the first decades of the festival, but party-goers were amply entertained by the tree climbing competitions, wheel barrow and sack races, mush eating contests, barrel rolling races, and goose chases. By 1870s, mechanical rides were an expanding feature of the festival and in 1908, the festival boasted Germany’s first roller coaster. When the city began allowing beer on the fairgrounds, makeshift beer stands began cropping up, and their number increased steadily until they were eventually replaced by beer halls in 1896. The beer halls, like the beer tents of today, were sponsored by the local breweries.
The festival was eventually prolonged and moved ahead to September to allow for better weather conditions. Today, the last day of the festival is the first Sunday in October. Over the past 200 years, Oktoberfest was canceled 24 times due to cholera epidemics and war.
Photography: Martin Erd