Oktoberfest 2016 is much more than a beer festival. This celebration of the harvest is all about community, having fun, and gathering together. It’s also about the good things in life, including great food and great drink. From a small festival in Munich, Germany, Oktoberfest has grown into a worldwide phenomenon, one that you don’t need to be German to enjoy.

The original Oktoberfest is still the biggest, drawing millions of people to Munich. Many of the people there to have fun may not be familiar with long history behind the tradition of Oktoberfest events. It all began with a wedding feast in 1810 and has since blossomed into one of the must-experience events on the annual calendar.

The Munich Oktoberfest 2016 begins in mid-September and continues into the first week of October. The celebration always begins with the official ceremony when the the town’s mayor taps the inaugural keg of this year’s brew. For the next three weeks, the schedule of events is jam packed with plenty of opportunities to take the specially crafted Oktoberfest beer and so much more.

Many of the events at Oktoberfest are designed for family-friendly fun. At the Munich festival and many others, you’ll find the traditional elements of a fair, like carnival rides, live music and games. Other events, especially at the beer tent, are designed for adult visitors, where the Oktoberfest girls serve drinks and meals fit for a king.

Whether you’re experiencing the big festival in Munich or another one outside of Bavaria, you can expect many elements of German culture in these events. The traditional costumes for men include the short pants with suspenders called lederhosen, and distinctly shaped hats. The woman’s dress, with a bodice, wide skirt and apron, is called the dirndl.

Of course, the beer is a big draw to most Oktoberfest celebrations. Most anyone who’s had a typical American beer is familiar with Bavarian-style beer. Many of America’s brewers, with names like Budweiser and Pabst, left Germany with the knowledge of how to make pilsners and ales. The traditional Bavarian purity laws allowed only for water, hops, and malt, leading to some especially tasty brews. Under the Oktoberfest tents, brewers from all around Munich offer their specially crafted beers, often saving the best for the festival. This tradition is repeated all around the world at festivals large and small.

Outside of Germany, there are many places, especially in the US, where Oktoberfest is a big deal. The Leavenworth Oktoberfest celebration in Washington state draws big crowds. The festival stretches over three weekends in late September and early October, celebrating the village’s Bavarian roots. Harpoon Oktoberfest in Boston and Vermont; Chicago; LaCrosse, Wisconsin; and Vail, Colorado are some of the nation’s best. Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest in Ontario is North America’s largest festival of this kind.

Festivals within the US often include many of the traditional German elements, including the food and drink, traditional dances, and opening ceremonies such as tapping the keg of the season’s signature brew.

Top image: pthread1981 (flickr)

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