One of the world’s largest folk festivals, the Oktoberfest in Germany draws six million visitors from around the world. It is estimated that each year five million litres of beer are consumed. This modern beerfest with beer tents, games, carousels, roller coasters, and bands began with the marriage of Bavaria’s Crown Prince Ludwig (later King Ludwig I) in 1810.
On October 12, 1810 Prince Ludwig wed Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen in Munich, Bavaria. There was a large celebration and all the citizens were invited to attend. The festival was and is held on the Theresienwiese, “The Fields of Therese”, so named to pay tribute to the Princess Therese. The celebration concluded with horse races. To honor the royal wedding an October Festival was held ever year. Within two years an agricultural show was added to boost the farming community. In 1818 a carousel was added and a small beer stand. Slowly the festival evolved. The horse races were abandoned in 1938, but the agricultural show is still held every three years. In 1896 the beer stands were replaced with beer tents.
Today, the Oktoberfest begins with a parade of flower-covered horse carts, town officials, and bands decked out in traditional lederhosen and dirndls. The parade makes its way to the Schottenhammel tent, the oldest private tent at the Oktoberfest. The mayor of Munich taps the first barrel of beer and declares, “O’zapft is!” which means, “The keg is tapped”. A special strong beer is brewed for the Oktoberfest called Wiesenbier, meaning “meadow beer”. Children can enjoy apple juice, ice cream, or even a non-alcoholic beer called Kinderbier. There is plenty of food to be found including: grilled chicken (brathendl), rotisserie chicken (haehnchen), roasted oxen (gebratene ochsen), veal sausage (mnchner weisse), pork sausage, grilled trout, eel, and fish on a stick (steckerlfisch). Another parade marks the end of Oktoberfest.
Although the Oktoberfest was originally held in October it is now held in September to avoid the icy cold and an early snowfall. The Oktoberfest lasts for 16 days beginning on a Saturday in September and ending on the first Sunday in October.
The festival is so popular that the tradition has spread around the world and at various times of the year. Both Canada and the U.S. have hundreds of beer celebrations. Milwaukee, Wisconsin (U.S.) holds an Oktoberfest from July 26 to July 28. It was started in 1846 by German settlers and it closely emulates the German Festival.
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Oktoberfest at Night Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.org.
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