To celebrate the start of October here at GermanMind, it was only apt to write about the world’s most celebrated beer festival, but did you know the festival actually starts from mid to late September, and finishes on the first Sunday of October?
All our German language school teachers are native Germans and have all attended Oktoberfest at least once, and truly miss the atmosphere and fun there, however this year's festivities have been cancelled due to the current pandemic, however you can still enjoy some German beers and read about the celebrations!
Oktoberfest dates back to 1810 when the crown prince of Bavaria Kronprinz Ludwig (later King Ludwig) married Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen on 12 October. The citizens of Munich were invited to the five day celebration held on the fields in front of the city gates, which were then named Theresienwiese (Theresa's Meadow) in honour of the Crown Princess, and have since been shortened to Wiesn by the locals. The celebration included horse racing, which was wildly popular back in the 19th century, as well as food and drink brought by local businesses and served in booths.
Each year after, the town celebrated the royal couple with a massive celebration, which continued to grow in popularity and now attracts over six million people annually.
If you are thinking of coming to Oktoberfest in 2021 then I would book now to avoid disappointment. The festival itself is free to attend, there is no charge on entry, no tickets or reservations required to enter tents, unless at weekends when it is busy. There are a variety of fairground rides available for adults and children alike, and a number of stalls to purchase traditional German foods and crafts.
Oktoberfest opens its doors at 9 am, with beer tents opening at 10 am from Monday to Friday, and 9 am on Saturday, Sunday and public holidays. Last orders will be taken at 10.30 pm, with venue closure at 11.30 pm. The only exception here is The Käfer Wiesn-Schänke and Kuffler’s Weinzelt (wine tent) who open till 1 pm, last call at 12.30 am.
As an opening ritual the mayor of Munich taps the keg at the Schottenhamel tent and with that the festivities can commence! So let’s find out some more about the German festival.
Beer at Oktoberfest
Keeping with tradition, only Munich breweries can sell their beer at Oktoberfest, and with over two million gallons of beer drank each year at Oktoberfest, it is no wonder they are very popular worldwide.
Augustiner, Hacker-Pschorr, Hofbräu, Löwenbräu, Paulaner and Spaten present a special beer each year specifically for Oktoberfest, with each beer having a ‘Big Tent’ at the festival. Beer is most commonly drunk from a stein, which can hold up to two pints, and costs between 10 and 12 euro depending on beer type.
Food at Oktoberfest
With all the beer consumption, it is a necessity and delight to have so many food stalls available at the festival. Each tent will have a variety of food offerings including bratwursts, wiener schnitzel, half chickens, pretzels and more. If you are a vegetarian please be warned there are limited options available to you, but there are delicious potatoes, breads and sauerkraut that are must trys for all attendees.
If you want to find out more about traditional German food, please check out our blog.
Most tourists visiting Oktoberfest will dress in traditional Bavarian clothing such as dirndls for women and Lederhosen for men.
Dirndls is a fitted bodice and skirt with a blouse underneath, and lederhosen are short or knee length breeches worn with suspenders attached with a shirt underneath. Lederhosen can also be worn with loafers (socks) also known as calf warmers, and a must if your lederhosen is quite short.
An interesting fact about dirndls is that you can tell if a lady is single or not by how she ties her bow. Bow on the right means you are spoken for, bow on the left is you are single, and bow in the middle means mind your own business!
As a major part of the opening weekend is the traditional costume parade which takes place on the first Sunday, where thousands of people walk the 7km around the festival in a procession, definitely a must see.
Attractions at Oktoberfest
This festival is about more than just food and drink, with music playing all day, fairground rides, souvenir stands and more.
From the classic swings at Wiesn, to the classic ferris wheel, toboggan, and world’s tallest mobile drop tower, there is something for all ages here, and with over 30 rides, you are bound to have endless fun.
Each tent has traditional music being played by a variety of German bands, so you can improve your German language skills by singing along and allowing yourself to immerse into the German culture.
Before you leave the festival you must check out the beautiful stalls offering souvenirs from the traditional festival stein or fridge magnet, to vogelpfeiferl bird whistles, which imitate bird sounds. If you would like to bring a memento from your trip home with you, we would suggest Lebkuchen, the heart shaped gingerbread cookie with various words and phrases on it.
If this doesn’t make you want to visit Oktoberfest next year, then just think of how the trip can help you learn German and converse with the locals over a German beer. You can improve your German language skills online or in class with us here at GermanMind, with new beginner classes starting in October.