Oktoberfest has now become the world’s largest beer festival and 2015 saw 5.9 million people at the Munich celebrations alone! The traditional folk and beer festival has not always been this popular though and comes from more humble beginnings…
ORIGINS OF OKTOBERFEST
The history of Oktoberfest stems all the way back to 12th of October in 1810, when Crown Prince Ludwig married Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen and invited the people of Munich to join in with the celebrations in the fields in front of the city gates. The end of the festivities was marked with a horse-race which was then repeated annually, giving rise to the first Oktoberfest celebrations.
From 1819, the citizens of Munich took responsibility for organising the event. They decided to lengthen the celebrations and the festival start date was brought forward to make more use of the warmer September days.
Over the years more and more was added to the festival with the introduction of an agriculture show, carousels, wheel barrow and sack races and, in 1908, Germany’s first roller-coaster was debuted at Oktoberfest.
OKTOBERFEST BECOMES A BEER FESTIVAL
In the late 1800’s, the city of Munich began allowing people to bring beer into the fairgrounds and pop-up beer sheds began to emerge, growing immensely popular. The beer sheds began to become so popular that in 1896 the sheds were replaced with giant beer halls sponsored by local breweries.
By the time of the 100th anniversary of Oktoberfest in 1910, drinking beer had become synonymous with the festival and over 120,000 litres of beer were consumed at the centenary event.
As the festival continued in to the 20th century it began to form into the festival we recognise today. The year 1950 saw the introduction of the “O ‘zapft is” which is now the traditional opening of the festival where the mayor taps open the first barrel of beer. In 1960 the traditional horse race, which was a part of the festival from its inception, was stopped and has only been repeated once on the 200th anniversary in 2010.
Oktoberfest has now grown to be a huge international event with celebrations in cities across the world. However, the largest of which is still in Munich, where in 2015 over 7.3 million litres of beer was consumed – that’s almost enough to fill three Olympic size swimming pools!