Thirty million cups of beer. That’s how much is sold at the annual Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany. What started as a lengthy wedding reception transitioned into an annual celebration of German culture. Its name is deceiving, however, since only a few days of the event are held in the month it’s named after. So, why does Oktoberfest start in September?
Why Does Oktoberfest Start in September?
Locals refer to the festival as the Weisn, but it is most commonly known as Oktoberfest. For the last 208 years, Oktoberfest has been held on the Theresienwiese (Therese’s Meadows) fairgrounds, with the exception of 24 years that were missed due to cholera epidemics and war. The origins of this traditional festival date back to 1810, when Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig married Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen at these meadows. They held a ceremony for five days in which all the citizens in Munich were invited to participate. They ate, drank, danced and watched parades during this time, ending the celebration with a horse race.
The affair was such a success that the citizens of Munich made it an annual event. As the festival grew, Oktoberfest was moved up earlier in the month, eventually running into September. Locals figured that if it was held in September they would be able to stay out later without getting chilly. To keep tradition with the origins of Oktoberfest, they made sure it fell at least in part within October.
What Is Oktoberfest?
Now, over 7.2 million people attend this festival each year. Oktoberfest runs anywhere from 16-18 days. It always ends on the first Sunday in October. It commences with the Mayor of Munich tapping the first keg and yelling “It’s tapped!” in German, as well as a 12 gun salute. The first beer at the festival was sold in 1892 and has become a core part of the celebration ever since. Locals and tourists honor tradition by drinking the different types of German beer offered in the beer stalls, and eating traditional German food. The horse races are no longer held but there are still parades, live music, and dancing to keep guests entertained. It’s common for the men to wear lederhosen and the ladies to dress in dirndls as part of the festivities.
Oktoberfest is still held every year in Munich, and continues to run mainly in September. Today, it has become one of Europe’s more popular festivals. If you plan on attending, don’t forget to pack your lederhosen, and make sure you double check the flight dates!