Oktoberfest in Munich: The World’s Largest Fair


About the Oktoberfest

Oktoberfest 2017 began last weekend in Munich, Germany. Started over 200 years ago as a wedding celebration for Prince Ludwig of Bavaria, it has grown into the world’s largest funfair with around 6 million+ people visiting each year! If you do go, remember to wear your “Tracht.”

Tracht is the traditional costume associated with Bavaria and Austria. Lederhosen and Dirndls are Tracht. Today, people wear Lederhosen and Dirndls to parties and festivals, but years ago they were the working clothes for farmers and servants!

The History of the Oktoberfest

Crown Prince Ludwig, later to become King Ludwig I, married to Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen on October 12, 1810. The citizens of Munich were invited to attend the festivities held on the fields in front of the city gates to celebrate the happy royal event. The fields have been named Theresienwiese (“Theresa’s fields”) in honor of the Crown Princess. Since then, the locals have since abbreviated the name and simply to Oktoberfest as the “Wies’n”.

Horse races in the presence of the royal family marked the close of the event. The decision to repeat the horse races in the subsequent year gave rise to the tradition of the Oktoberfest.

The Oktoberfest Continues in 1811

In 1811, an added feature to the horse races was the first agricultural show, designed to boost Bavarian agriculture. The horse races, which were the oldest and, at one time, the most popular event of the festival are no longer held today. However, the agricultural show is still held every three years during the Oktoberfest on the southern part of the festival grounds.

In the beginning, the choice of amusements was sparse. The first carousel and two swings were set up in 1818. Visitors were able to quench their thirst at small beer stands which grew rapidly in number. In 1896, the beer stands, backed by the breweries, were replaced by the first beer tents and halls set up by enterprising landlords.

The remainder of the festival site was taken up by a fun-fair. The range of carousels and other amusements was already increasing rapidly in the 1870s as the fairground trade continued to grow and develop in Germany.

Octoberfest 2017

Today, the Oktoberfest is the largest festival in the world, with an international flavor characteristic of the 21th century: some 6 million+ visitors from all around the world converge on the Oktoberfest each year.

And since the Oktoberfest is still held on the Theresienwiese, the locals still refer to the event simply as the “Wies’n”. So “Welcome to the Wies’n!” means nothing other than “Welcome to the Oktoberfest”!

When is Oktoberfest scheduled for 2018?
September 22 to October 7, 2018

Do I have to pay an entrance fee?
No, the entry to the area and all beer-tents is free.

Bags and Backpacks
Backpacks and large bags are generally not allowed. Please leave everything you don’t necessarily need at home. The less you carry with you, the easier you will find it to move around the busy parts of Oktoberfest. Bags and backpacks with a volume of more than 3 litres and/or larger than 20cm x 15cm x 10cm are not allowed to be taken into the showgrounds (‘Wiesn’).

All bags and rucksacks will be checked by the security staff and will be tagged with a security check band. Personal medical devices or medication are allowed once cleared by security personnel.

If your luggage exceeds the maximum size you can secure them at one of the several locking stations around the Wiesn (fees apply).

Why is Oktoberfest called “Oktoberfest” when it actually begins in September?
The historical background: the first Oktoberfest was held in the year 1810 in honor of the Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig’s marriage to Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen. The festivities began on October 12, 1810 and ended on October 17 with a horse race. In the following years, the celebrations were repeated and, later, the festival was prolonged and moved forward into September.

By moving the festivities up, it allowed for better weather conditions. Because the September nights were warmer, the visitors were able to enjoy the gardens outside the tents and the stroll over “die Wiesen” or the fields much longer without feeling chilly. Historically, the last Oktoberfest weekend was in October and this tradition continues into present times.

Are children allowed to visit the beer tents?
It depends on the age: Children under the age of six must leave the tents at 8pm even if they are in the company of their parents. A crowded tent wouldn’t be much fun for either the childern or the parents..

What is “Die Wiesn”?
The locals in Munich fondly refer to Oktoberfest as “die Wiesn” because of its location, Theresienwiese, which was named after Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen.

Is there a program of events to observe during this folk’s festival?
The main highlight of the Wiesn events and an important must-see is the Oktoberfest Costume and Riflemen’s Parade. The parade happens every year on the first Wiesn Sunday.

Other important events are the Parade of Oktoberfest Landlords and Breweries, the Official Tapping of the Keg, the Oktoberfest Mass or the “Böllerschießen” (handheld canon salute) in front of the Bavaria statue.

Website for more info: https://www.oktoberfest.de/en/

Thanks to Sharon Stefanski for sharing her information with us!

Natalie Taylor
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