How did the Oktoberfest actually come about?
The origins of the Oktoberfest can be traced back to an early 19th century royal wedding in Munich, Germany.
Here’s a brief history of how Oktoberfest came to be:
On 12 October 1810, Crown Prince Ludwig (later King Ludwig I of Bavaria) married Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen. To celebrate the royal wedding, a great public horse race was organised on the fields outside the gates of Munich.
Naming of the Theresienwiese:
The fields where the horse race took place were named “Theresienwiese” in honour of the Crown Princess. This is often shortened to “Wies’n” by locals and is still the site of the Oktoberfest.
The wedding celebration was open to all residents of Munich and was such a success that it was decided to repeat the horse races the following year, leading to the tradition of the Oktoberfest.
In 1811 an agricultural show was introduced to promote Bavarian agriculture. The Agricultural Show is still part of the Oktoberfest, but is only held every four years.
Beer and the Oktoberfest:
Initially, beer was not the main focus of the festival. But over the years, as the event grew in popularity, more food and drink stalls appeared and breweries began to build large beer halls. By the end of the 19th century, beer had become central to the Oktoberfest celebrations.
Evolution over time:
While the original event was centred around horse racing, over time the focus shifted to the festivities, food, beer and entertainment. The horse races, which were the original reason for the celebration, ended in 1960.
Originally the Oktoberfest was held on 12 October. However, due to the often chilly weather at the end of October, the date was brought forward to allow for better weather conditions. Despite the name ‘Oktoberfest’, most of the festival now takes place in September and usually ends on the first Sunday in October.
Today, the Oktoberfest is the largest folk festival in the world, attracting millions of visitors from all over the world. The celebration is not just about beer; it includes traditional food, music, parades, Bavarian costumes and rides. The event has also inspired countless similar festivals around the world.
Here’s to a peaceful Oktoberfest 2023!