The Oktoberfest is the world’s largest Volksfest (beer festival and travelling funfair). It is held annually in Munich, Bavaria, Germany. It is a 16 to 18 day folk festival running from mid- or late September to the first Sunday in October, with more than six million people from around the world attending the event every year. Locally, it is called d’Wiesn, after the colloquial name for the fairgrounds, Theresienwiese. The Oktoberfest is an important part of Bavarian culture, having been held since the year 1810.
Oktoberfest began as the marriage ceremony between Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese on October 12, 1810. All of the townspeople were invited to attend the festival, which took place in the fields outside of the city gates. Following the wedding the fields were named Theresienwiese after the Princess, and the party was such a hit that the townspeople asked King Ludwig to continue the celebration the following year.
What was a simple wedding celebration has transformed into a 17 or 18-day festival in which 7 million people from around the world participate in, consuming more than 6 million liters of Bavarian beer. That’s 1 million gallons of beer! Oktoberfest officially begins on the second to last Saturday in September at noon when the mayor of Munich taps the first barrel at the Schottenhamel Tent, crying “O’zapft is” (It’s open). The festival concludes the first Sunday of October following German reunification day on October 5.
There are 14 main beer tents at the Theresienwiese grounds serving brews by the Maß (1-liter stein). Of the 14 tents there are 6 large tents, which rotate up to 12,000 people per day! That is a whole lot of beer! Only six breweries are represented at the Oktoberfest grounds – Späten, Augustiner, Paulaner, Hacker-Poschorr, Hofbräu and Löwenbräu.
The first Oktoberfest was celebrated in Munich in 1810 in honor of Prince Ludwig’s marriage to Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen. The festivities began October 12, 1810, and lasted for almost a week, until October 17. The public celebrations ended with an exciting horse race. After such a spectacular party, the happy couple decided that the same type of festival should be continued annually. In the following years, the galas were repeated every October, prolonged and, eventually moved forward into September primarily because of the weather.