Oktoberfest is the largest beer festival in the world that’s held each year in Germany. The festival is an 18-day celebration that is thrown usually from mid-September to the first weekend in October. As odd as it is that the festival isn’t solely during the month of October, people don’t seem to mind, over 6 million people travel from around the world to attend the festival.
Dating back to 1810, Oktoberfest is a big part of Bavarian culture; it began after the royal wedding of Kronsprinz Ludwig and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen. The Munich residents then came together to partake in festivities and horse races on the fields in front of the city gates and that tradition has stuck ever since, however, people still debate over the origin of the festival.
The festivities back in 1811 were extremely different compared to modern day Oktoberfest activities. In the 1800s you would find festival attendees participating in tree climbing, bowling, swinging, parades, and horse races. Trying to preserve tradition but move along with modern times the festival now features carnival rides, beer tents, a “Steckerlfisch grilling, a chain swing and things like cotton candy and funnel cake stands. They also include a petting zoo and your ticket buys you a seat to watch the horse race, a tradition that never died.
I’ve never personally been to an Oktoberfest, but when I hear the term my mind immediately pictures Sam Adams and people downing pumpkin beer by the gallon. It seems many versions of Oktoberfest in America as you might guess, are “Americanized.” Many of the festivals in the US don’t offer the experience you would get if you traveled to the Germany Oktoberfest; that’s not true for all of them, but like most other Holidays such as St. Patrick’s Day, Munich traditions are no longer closely tied to the celebration. Instead you’ll see more advertisement about the different beer venders, corn hole tournaments, Weiner dog races (as Ogden Taproom in Wilmington NC features) and activities of those sorts. I suppose Weiner dog races sound somewhat like they could have been a historical tradition!
What are your thoughts on the Americanized version of Oktoberfest? Do you think we should carry on more of the traditional activities tied to the festival? Is it just a day to drink beer? Weiner dog races or tree climbing? I guess we can all agree on one thing… any day dedicated to drinking beer is a good day!