It’s everybody’s beer-soaked holiday! (Next to Cinco de Mayo and St. Patrick’s Day.)
- The Oktoberfest tradition began with a colossal wedding party on October 12th, 1810 that celebrated the nuptials of the future King Ludwig I to Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen. (Try to say her name and title three times fast..) The royals invited the public to attend the festivities outside of Munich’s city gates in a large field. The epic party concluded with a horse race.
- Everybody had such a great time that the horse races became an annual tradition in the field, which was later dubbed Theresienwiese (“Theresa’s fields”) in honor of the princess. Over time, the event expanded to include carnival rides and its current most popular feature: beer.
- Drinking fine German ale became so popular that the fest’s beer stands had to be replaced with increasingly large tents beginning in the late 19th century. (In case you were wondering, the final horse race was held in 1960.)
- As Oktoberfest began to draw bigger and bigger crowds with each passing year, organizers decided to add additional days and move the event, even though it has the word “October” in it, to September—the weather is typically better then. These days, Munich’s Oktoberfest ends on the first Sunday in October.
- The first day of the fest traditionally begins with a series of parades featuring members of local gun clubs and all the staff that will be serving the crowds. Then, at noon, the mayor of Munich taps a keg and offers the first frosty mug of beer to the Minister-President of the state of Bavaria.
- One of the biggest controversies in recent years was the decision to ban smoking in all the fest’s colossal beer tents—refusing to sell beer to anyone caught smoking is a common form of punishment. Many attendees hate it because the smoke covered up the disgusting scent of all the beer that’s spilled in the usually overcrowded tents. To fight the putrid stench, some tents now utilize a special bacterial substance.
- Now recognized as the largest annual “people’s fair” on the planet, Oktoberfest features carnival rides, concerts, tons of locals and tourists running around in traditional Bavarian clothing ,and lots of beer. How much? Last year, the fest attracted 6.4 million people, who drank 6.7 million liters (that’s altogether, not individually).
- Since 1810, Oktoberfest has been cancelled 24 times due to various health epidemics and wars.