This year’s big travel plans include visiting Munich and celebrating Oktoberfest. I’ve been to Oktoberfest celebrations here in the states before, but I don’t think they really hold a candle to the real deal in Germany. Oktoberfest typically occurs at the end of September to early October. Cities around the world will gather crowds of people to eat sausages and Bavarian pretzels and drink as much beer as possible; but what are the origins of this festival?
Oktoberfest began in Munich, with the wedding of the future King Ludwig I to Princess Therese on Oct. 12th, 1810. All the citizens of Munich were invited to festivities held on the lawns by the city gates. The celebration was ended by a horse race, which was celebrated again the next year- and so began the tradition. It was built upon every year after that by adding an Agricultural Show, carousels, and of course, beer vendors, among other things. The giant beer tents or halls that we associate with Oktoberfest celebrations didn’t develop until 1896 to promote the brewing industry.
Today, the Oktoberfest grounds have activities such as roller coasters in addition to the beer tents. There is also live music and multiple parades. The mayor of Munich even participates in tapping the first barrel of beer to open the festivities.
As a cultural stereotype, Oktoberfest is the epitome of traditional German culture and the love of good beer (or “bierernst”). Munich is in the Bavarian region of Germany, which is the typical leiderhosen and beer stein style of German that we associate with Germany and Oktoberfest, and there is a long history of loving good beer in Bavaria. Perhaps most well-known, Bavaria instituted the Reinheitsgebot, or the “beer purity law”, in the 16th century in order to ensure the quality of the beer being produced in the region. Issued by Duke Wilhelm IV in 1516, it allowed for only four ingredients in brewing beer: hops, barley, water, and yeast. While today this might not be necessary considering modern food safety laws that are in place, many are still steadfast believers in the traditional method and in making traditional German beers.
Leading up to Oktoberfest later in the year, I’ll discuss other aspects of the history of beer and of Germany. Thanks for coming along! -Lauren
Sources I used and links for more information: