Nowadays, it’s the biggest festival in the country of Germany, celebrated nationwide and home to millions of drinkers. But it will always be a Bavarian holiday first and foremost, with Munich as the focal point of the history of Oktoberfest.
Oktoberfest originated as a horse race honoring the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese in 1810. Because the wedding and race took place, German Oktoberfest history begins on either the 12th or the 17th of October, depending on who you talk to. By 1819, the race had been called off, replaced by beer carts and a carnival-like atmosphere, the leaders of Munich decided that Oktoberfest would be held each year, no exceptions. And though Oktoberfest originated as a one-day commemoration, it was thereby extended to 16 days of revelry and heavy drinking.
Since then, the history of Oktoberfest has found itself interrupted only for war, cholera epidemics and the occasional financial hardship. The festival has slowly changed into what one sees today in Munich – the inclusion of traditional music and dress, the special Oktoberfest beer served in one-liter steins, the ceremonial tapping of the first keg – and has turned these 16 days in early autumn into one of Germany’s biggest tourist draws.
German Oktoberfest history is on display everywhere - the beer tents, the swaying music, the ubiquitous German drinking songs, it’s Bavaria’s biggest party, and the whole world is invited.
Top image: garann (flickr), CC BY-SA 2.0