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The Story Behind Oktoberfest


CHRISTINA MIGLIORE, MD
JFTC Communications Liaison
CMigliore@barnabashealth.org


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The month of October is filled with a number of holidays and occasions we celebrate. There is of course Halloween, Columbus Day, National Boss Day (yes there is one on October 16) and my favorite celebration ... Oktoberfest! I guess it's my half-German background that attracts me to this great time of year. Although I have never been to the real Oktoberfest in Germany, it got me thinking ... how did the Oktoberfest tradition we know and love first begin?

It all started on October 12th, 1810 with the marriage of the Bavarian King, Max Joseph (who later became King Ludwig I) to Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen. On the 17th, five days after the marriage, a large fest was held in front of the Sendlinger Tor, one of the gates leading to Munich. This grand festival, including horse races, became an Oktoberfest custom lasting until 1938.

A year later an agricultural fair was added and by 1818 beer pubs were included along with performers. It became a great tourist attraction and a way for visitors to learn about Bavaria and its people (I'm sure money was involved).

Flash forward to today: Munich Oktoberfest is held in September because the weather is milder than in October. The 16-day fest begins on a Saturday in September and always ending on the first Sunday in October. It is one of the most famous events in Germany and is the world's largest fair. Although the horseracing ended in 1938, the other events continued through the years, but the focus remains the beer!

In 1887 lederhosen and dirndls became the traditional garb of the attendees. The festival traditionally begins with a parade, starting just before noon and includes the mayor and other civic leaders followed by horse-drawn brewer's carts, bands, and townspeople wearing their costumes. The parade ends at the oldest private tent at Oktoberfest, the Schottenhammel tent where the mayor opens the first keg of beer and the toasting begins. More than seven million people attend the opening ceremonies. That's a lot of beer!

Munich's six major brewers of the Oktoberfest Maerzen beer may be found in the seven halls where there is live music throughout the day and evening. These brewers include: Hacker-Pschorr, Lowenbrau, Spaten, Hofbrauhaus, Augustiner, and Paulaner. Oktoberfest beer is an amber-gold lager with 6 percent alcohol. German hops such as Hallertau and Tettnang are added. This Maerzen beer was served at the Crown Prince's wedding in 1810. At that time, Maerzen beers were brewed in March, laagered or cold-stored in caves for 10-12 weeks, and ready to drink by the late summer or early fall. Today, Oktoberfest biers tend to be lighter in color and body than the traditional Maerzen style.

Outside these beer tents, one will find dancing, music, sideshows, carnival rides, and plenty of German food of all types. Wursts of beef, chicken, veal, or pork, slices of beef, pieces of chicken, sauerkraut, potato salad, cabbage, onions, and of course, pretzels are among the foods enjoyed with a stein or two of one's favorite beer (I personally favor Spaten).

oct links   Learn more about Germany's Oktoberfest Beer Festival!

And if you can't make it to Germany, create your own Oktoberfest!

So Happy Oktoberfest to all the ISHLT members!


Disclosure Statement: The author has no conflicts of interest to disclose.