When the leaves start changing, the days get a little shorter, and college football games fill Saturday afternoons, it doesn’t just mean fall is upon us: it’s time for Oktoberfest. While everyone knows Oktoberfest as a time to wear lederhosen and drink seasonal beers, it’s actually a holiday with a rich history.
Whether you love German history or just want a few facts to impress your friends over beer and giant soft pretzels, here is a quick recap of the origins of Oktoberfest.
It Started With a Wedding
On October 12th, 1810, Crown Prince Ludwig married Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen. This was such a special event that all of the residents of Munich were invited to attend various celebrations and events in front of the city gates. These fields were named Theresienwiese (Theresa’s fields) in honor of the Crown Princess. The locals gave this area the nickname “Wies’n.”At the close of the event, the Royal family enjoyed horseraces in the Wies’n. These races were the close of the wedding, which was essentially a celebration and festival for all of the Bavaria region.
That Was Fun. Let’s Do It Again
After such a lively and enjoyable time at the royal wedding, the people of Bavaria decided to repeat the horseraces the following year. In 1811, they added an Agricultural Show to help boost local agriculture. This show is still part of modern Oktoberfest activities, even if the horseraces are no longer involved. The Agricultural Show is held every three years of Oktoberfest on the south part of the grounds.
It wasn’t until 1818 when entertainment and amusement options were added to the event. A carousel and a couple of swing sets became part of the show. More importantly, visitors were able to enjoy beers from small stands. This popular element of the festival took off. By 1896, small beer stands were replaced with beer tents and beer halls. These beer areas were backed by local breweries and allowed guests to enjoy their favorite brews.
By the 1870s, the festival became more about having fun than anything else. That means an increased number of rides, additional carousels, and of course, plenty of delicious beer.
Oktoberfest is For Everyone
While the Oktoberfest we know and love today is vastly different than the first wedding celebration, it’s an event recognized around the world. It is the world’s largest folk festival and draws nearly six million visitors each year. The record for most beer consumed and chicken eaten seems to break each year as well.
While it may not be feasible to make the trip to Germany each year to enjoy the fest, people all over the world enjoy this time in their local cities and homes. Many towns have their own Oktoberfest activities, while other people just enjoy seasonal Oktoberfest beers with friends.
Regardless of how you celebrate or recognize Oktoberfest, it’s an event that originated with a wedding celebration. That’s why it makes sense to enjoy the company and friends and family today.