Ask anyone what Oktoberfest is all about and you’ll get one answer and one answer only: beer. Or, perhaps more accurately: “BEER!”The thing is, that’s not
what Oktoberfest is all about; or, at least it’s not what it used to be about.Oktoberfest History
Oktoberfest is more or less like our state fairs, but with way more beer and people. The tradition started as a wedding reception of sorts for the marriage between then Crown Prince Ludwig (King Ludwig I) and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen in 1810. The reception was for the commoners of Munich, and as the story goes beer was not provided.Before the beer started to flow, what came to be known as Oktoberfest was more of an agricultural celebration, again like our state fairs. After a while the event started to draw purveyors of food, brew and entertainment of all sorts, eventually culminating in the blowout we know and love today.The festival is still held on the grounds where the first reception took place, but many communities around the world steeped in German culture also celebrate along with their native brothers and sisters. Cincinnati (OH), Big Bear City (California) and Kitchener (Ontario) are just a few locations where Germans abroad try to match the fervor felt in Munich.Oktoberfest Facts & Trivia1. It’s a family thing.
For Germans, Oktoberfest really is like the fair. Americans look it as a beer-fueled maelstrom of debauchery – and there are people who treat it as such – but there are rides, games and entertainment for all, and the whole shebang shuts down every day before midnight.2. Most of it takes place in September.
Oktoberfest is a bit of a misnomer. The original festival took place entirely in the month of October following the nuptials of Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese on October 12, 1810. But, as the festival grew longer (and bigger), officials decided to move up the date to take advantage of September’s comparatively balmier climes.3. In Munich, only certain beers are allowed.
Germans, and Bavarians in particular, take their beer very seriously and they’re not going to serve just any ol’ slop at Oktoberfest. It’s not about sponsorship, like it is here in the States, but about quality, legacy and traditional brewing. This year, as in countless prior years, the six breweries permitted to offer beer at Munich’s Oktoberfest include Augustiner (est. 1328), Hacker Pschorr (est. 1417), Hofbrau (est. 1589), Lowenbrau (est. 1383), Paulaner (est. 1634) and Spaten (est. 1397).4. Munich waitresses are volunteers, and positions are coveted.
Munich waitresses, who wear the traditional dirndl
and can carry more beer in two hands than you can drink in a year, are paid in tips only. Even so, the job traditionally pays well and lasses travel from near and far for a shot to hoist a mass
(the name of the German traditional one-liter mug
).So, this Oktoberfest, remember to tipple responsibly and tip well, and fortune shall smile upon thee. Prost!