The history of Oktoberfest

An event with deep cultural significance, the modern festival all started with horse races staged by the German national guard on October 12, 1810 to commemorate the marriage of Ludwig Crown Prince of Bavaria and Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen. The race was such a success with the people, it was held again the following year on the Theresienwiese, a meadow centrally located near the heart of Munich that was named in honor of the Princess.

Over time, Oktoberfest was prolonged and moved to September to take advantage of the better weather conditions, and, today, the 16-17-day festival runs from late September up to, and including, the first Sunday in October. The festival has also grown in size with the number of stalls increasing from 1870 onward. In 1896, the first beer tents were built that sold only beer brewed within the city of Munich, a tradition that has endured to the present day. However, due to a lack of space, the horse races that started it all were held for the last time in 1960. By this time, Oktoberfest had become a world-famous festival.

The festival officially begins at 12 noon on the first day with a 12-gun salute and the tapping of the first keg of Oktoberfest beer in the Schottenhamel tent by the incumbent Mayor of Munich with the cry of “O’zapft is!” (“It is tapped!”). The Mayor then serves the first Maß, a glass mug containing exactly one liter of beer, to the Minister-President of the State of Bavaria, and everywhere you look men wearing the traditional lederhosen and women wearing the iconic Bavarian dirndl cheer the opening of the festivities.


By Michelle Rittler