The name Oktoberfest is somewhat of a misnomer, for although part of Germany’s annual celebration of beer and Bavaria does indeed take place in October, the majority of the fest’s events actually take place in the second half of September.
The root of the festival’s name, Oktoberfest, dates back to October 12, 1810, when Crown Prince Ludwig (later King Ludwig I) married Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen and the citizens of Munich were invited to celebrate the royal event in the fields in front of the city gates. The wedding festivities ended on October 17th with a horse race. Modern Germany continues to the now annual tradition of Oktoberfest, which has grown to be the largest festival in the world (more than six million people fro around the globe attend each year). However, the celebrations have been moved up by a few weeks in order to take advantage of September’s warmer weather and stay out in the tents longer.
This year, the festival runs starts on Saturday, Sept. 20, with the grand entry of the Oktoberfest landlords and breweries, and ends on October 5. On the opening Saturday, the Mayor of Munich officially taps the first keg of Oktoberfest beer at noon, and then everyone is invited to fill their steins at any of the 14 enormous beer tents, including the new horse-themed Marstall tent. On Monday to Friday, beer is sold from 10 am to 10:30 pm; and on Saturdays, Sundays and Friday October 3rd, the tents serve beer from 9 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Sunday is host to the Oktoberfest Costume and Rifleman’s Parade, one of the fest’s main highlights.
Celebrity guests who are stopping by Berlin or Warnemunde may want to consider a detour to Munich for the authentic Okotberfest experience, if you have enough time on your schedule.
For guests outside of Germany, Oktoberfest has taken on a cultural life of its own, and countries as varied as Vietnam, Canada, Peru and India now host their own versions of the German celebration. Indeed, practically every state in America tries to join in on the Oktoberfest bandwagon as well, though many say that the best U.S. celebration is Cincinnati’s Oktoberfest Zinzinnati, which features seven stages of non-stop live German music, over 30 vendors serving roughly 200 dishes (including 80,500 bratwurst and 23,004 soft pretzels), and an annual mass performance of the Chicken Dance.