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The Origin of the Oktoberfest

Oktoberfest began on October 12, 1810 with the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig, who later became King Ludwig I. His marriage to Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen was celebrated in Bavaria. On October 17, five days after the marriage, a large fest was held in front of the Sendlinger Tor, one of the gates leading to Munich.  Included in the festivities were horse races that became an Oktoberfest custom lasting until 1938.  In 1811 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.

Today, Munich Oktoberfests are held in September because the weather is milder than that experienced in October. In Munich, the fest lasts for 16 days, beginning on a Saturday in September and always ending on the first Sunday in October. Although the horseracing ended in 1938, the other events continued through the years with the exception of war time.

In 1887 lederhosen and dirndls became the traditional garb of the attendees.  The fest traditionally begins with a parade, starting just before noon.  Included are 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 7,000,000 people attend the opening ceremonies.

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.  The six major Munich brewers are: Hacker-Pschorr, Lowenbrau, Spaten, Hofbrauhaus, Augustiner, and Paulaner.  Oktoberfest beer was 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.  Then Maerzen beers were brewed in March, lagered 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 the beer tents, one will find dancing, music, sideshows, and carnival rides, and more German food of all types.

And of course, 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.

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